Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

A Flattering, Appreciative Comment Can Do Wonders, Sometimes…

with 16 comments

…whether it’s about you, personally, or, as in this case, about you as an editor.

(What, you thought I’d be talking about something else? For shame…the summer romance bug hasn’t bitten me in a long, long time. Though I suppose it’s still possible…but I digress. Back to the blog.)

Folks, I’m very happy to pass along the following link from an interview author Kayelle Allen did with authorsinterviews (a WordPress site). Kayelle kindly mentioned me, and especially my editing. She didn’t have to do that. The interview was all about her, and about her excellent book, BRINGER OF CHAOS: THE ORIGIN OF PIETAS.

In response to the interviewer’s question about “one entity who supported you outside of family members,” Kayelle discussed her friend, writer Houston Havens, and then said this:

And Barb Caffrey, my editor. She’s a brilliant writer in her own right, but she sees details that I would have missed. She suggests slight changes that make all the difference in a scene. Often, simply the change of structure in a sentence can put an all new slant on a scene. I recommend her as both author and editor.

Thank you, Kayelle!

As I have said before, if you haven’t read Kayelle’s book yet, you should. It’s a military SF/action-adventure/bromance like no other. I said once to Kayelle that Pietas starts out almost like the ultimate bad guy, but he’s not; he’s complex, multifaceted, multi-layered, and in some ways, very human despite his genetic engineering and overall socialization/conditioning. That he makes common cause with Six, a guy who amounts to a Special Forces operative in the far future — reanimated, ’cause hey, it’s SF and you can get away with that (and why not?) — and has to learn that at least one human being is worthy of his friendship is…startling. That Pietas can be friends and admit to vulnerability and loss and frustration like anyone else despite all of his abilities at regeneration and immortality is, in an odd way, extremely moving. Pietas wants no pity. But he does want, ultimately, your understanding…hoping there may be one other human out there like Six who’s worth one iota of his time.

Why his people, the Ultras, feel this way toward non-altered humans is for you to read. But I think you will want to read it, if you enjoy milSF/action-adventure.

Now, as to what I did for Kayelle as an editor? She’s a very accomplished writer who turned in a sparkling-clean manuscript. A copy-edit, in her case, was more, “How can I help you make this section over here stand out a little more?” or “Did you ever consider X instead of Y” in a different place. I tried to give her a few options, and did my best to smooth out the (very few) rough spots.

My whole editorial philosophy, in a nutshell, is to help my client strengthen his/her authentic voice. If I make every book I edit sound like my style, that is doing my clients a disservice. And if I make every book I edit look and sound like something I’ve already seen — even if it’s from a widely acknowledged SF/F master writer like Stephen R. Donaldson or Lois McMaster Bujold — that, too, is doing my clients a disservice.

The trick in editing is to figure out what your client’s voice is, then strengthen it. That’s what works best.

Yes, fix all the typos and the grammar and punctuation, address all the stylistic concerns**, all that. But make the book better. Don’t just put in the hours…figure out what that book’s story actually is, and enhance it.

Otherwise, what are you doing?

Now, considering I am an independent editor, I can only suggest the changes rather than require them. But I’m reasonably persuasive in my arguments, and usually can point to various books or stories of my own or others and say, “What I’d like you to consider is X. What you did is Y. Maybe you don’t want to do X, but can you do Z instead?”

Anyway. I appreciate what Kayelle said. She’s the third editorial client I’ve had who’s publicly said she appreciates my editing. (The others, by the way, are Chris Nuttall and Dora Machado.) Most of the time, editors are treated more like furniture than an essential part of what goes into a book, so I’ve appreciated it immensely when someone recommends me as an editor…it means more than I can possibly say.


**Sample stylistic concern: “You give Doctor Evil ‘s title as ‘Doctor’ in one section, but ‘Dr.’ in another. I don’t care which one you pick, but for ease of reading, it’s usually better to pick only one.” (This seems picayune, but can make all the difference to a self-published novel in looking professional — or looking like you just fell off the turnip truck.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 27, 2016 at 9:14 am

16 Responses

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  1. How nice of you to respond, Barb. I love working with you. This was our third book together, and because of that, I had things in mind going in that I should and should not do. I believe if you are to grow as a writer, you must listen to and consider what an editor teaches you. Writing without an inner editor isn’t easy. We are schooled not to make mistakes. What I’m talking about is knowing the right way to do something so it doesn’t have to be re-done. Why make the same mistakes? I try, as they say, to “write drunk” and “edit sober.” 🙂 I turn in a clean manuscript because as a writer, I want to write properly in the first place. I have beta readers and a critique group. They see my work multiple times before it comes to you. Plus there’s a good bit of pride in getting back a manuscript that isn’t covered in red. But what I love most is when an editor responds not just to the writing itself, but also to the characters. You do that. I know I’ve done my job as an author when I get back notes like these: “This is a very strong, very disturbing opening. Well done!” OR “This is a very passive way to put it, Kayelle. I don’t know if that suits you.” OR “Pietas, at this juncture, is not admirable, no. But he is right.” You let me know I had captured not only proper writing technique – I had captured the character too. It’s good we get on so well, because I plan to send you many more books.

    Kayelle Allen

    July 27, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    • I look forward to that, Kayelle. 🙂

      And yes, that’s what I say. I figure if I can’t show you I actually understood your book, what am I doing there? 😉

      Barb Caffrey

      July 27, 2016 at 9:24 pm

      • I’ve had editors who only respond to the technical aspects. I have felt let down. I’d like to know if I’m effective as a storyteller as well as a good writer, so that’s one reason I appreciate your input so much. You aren’t feeding my ego — you’re validating a skill, and that is invaluable.

        Kayelle Allen

        July 27, 2016 at 9:27 pm

      • If someone has been trained only on the technique, then maybe that’s all they know how to do? (I don’t want to malign anyone, but it does seem to me that they aren’t quite seeing the forest for the trees if that’s their approach.)

        Barb Caffrey

        July 27, 2016 at 9:28 pm

  2. Hi Barb thanks for sharing my interview with Kayelle Allen it was very nice of you


    July 27, 2016 at 9:18 pm

  3. I agree, Barb. I’ve had excellent edits from other editors. They usually get the technical aspects right and I learn from that. Edits can be unhelpful too. I had one editor tell me she didn’t think a particular name sounded very “scifi” and suggested I consider changing it. I had to say no to that one. The character had already appeared in two other books and was a major player in my series. A little late now! 🙂

    Kayelle Allen

    July 27, 2016 at 9:32 pm

  4. Kayelle – this is such a great post I had to share the link! Hugs sweetie!


    July 29, 2016 at 3:32 am

    • Thank you for enjoying it, Houston. 🙂 I was glad to tell my readers a little more about Kayelle’s excellent book.

      Barb Caffrey

      July 29, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      • You’re welcome Barb…I’ve read Kayelle’s book and love it…it’s a 5 star read for sure. Those who already love her work will enjoy her new voice it adds even more to her wonderful ability to tell such soul touching tales! I thought her work was great before but THIS BOOK and how she crafted it is amazing – I’m not sure what she did but her story telling is now VERY rich, full and done with great details. Kayelle draws the readers in so deep you can’t help but feel what they feel, see what they see! Like I said…I love This book!

        Big hugs


        August 2, 2016 at 5:05 am

      • I agree with you entirely, Houston, and am glad I could do my small part in polishing Kayelle’s diamond. 🙂 *hugs* back.

        Barb Caffrey

        August 2, 2016 at 1:35 pm

  5. Houston and I are each other’s biggest fans, I swear. One reason we’re such good friends and have so much influence on each other is that we are both driven writers. We strive to be the absolute best. Neither of us are content to just tell a story. We want to paint word pictures. We want to make our words chocolate on the reader’s mind.

    Kayelle Allen

    August 2, 2016 at 7:56 am

    • That was how my late husband was as well. If you want to do something, do it well. 🙂 And I believe you do, and I’m sure Houston does as well — she has the same mindset you do, no question!

      Barb Caffrey

      August 2, 2016 at 1:36 pm

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