Interview with Kate Goldsworthy

A few years ago, I had the incredible good fortune to be mentored by Kate Goldsworthy as part of my Master’s degree. Kate is a freelance editor who has worked with a slew of talented literary authors including Bri Lee (Eggshell Skull), Ariella Van Luyn (Treading Air) and Angela Meyer (A Superior Spectre). Kate has a razor-sharp eye. Her ability to pick up minute details while analysing a story’s overall structure is a gift. My work benefited tremendously from Kate’s generous guidance, and I am so pleased to share this interview with you. Enjoy and happy writing.

  1. Can you give us a brief overview of your career as an editor including education and your transition into freelancing? Did you always know you wanted to work in publishing? 

I always loved writing but was originally too cautious to pursue a career in publishing. As an undergrad I majored in both psychology and English literature, and it took me a long time to realise that the former wasn’t leading me anywhere. I interned at magazines and did the RMIT Professional Writing & Editing course, which I highly recommend. Through a classmate, Jo Case, I got my first paid editorial gig as the Readings Monthly assistant. I also started getting freelance proofreads through Bec Starford, who’d managed one of my internships, and then I got more of this work through an Allen & Unwin editor who spoke at RMIT.

Jo recommended me to Black Inc., where I soon started working as a part-time editorial assistant while I continued to do some freelance proofreading. Then one of the senior eds at Black Inc. went on mat leave, and suddenly I was promoted to editor! All my dreams had come true! Except I was made redundant about two years later and had to fend for myself. That was a tough time. Fortunately I had good industry contacts, and within a year I was earning more as a freelancer than I had in-house, thanks mainly to a lovely and supportive publisher at A&U, Louise Thurtell.

I went back in-house for two years at Affirm Press because they offered me a great opportunity not just to edit but also to commission and acquire books. Although I really loved working at Affirm and was sad to leave in late 2016, I realised that I prefer freelancing. I was lucky to be in a position where I could easily transition from in-house to freelance work without losing income. I’m someone who needs to set my own schedule, and I enjoy working on my own, in my own space. I sometimes miss having colleagues, but I regularly catch up with my clients and authors.

Last year my partner and I bought a property in a semi-rural area, and I’ve decided that I’m never going back in-house. Well, unless someone lets me work from home and pays me a massive salary with benefits … um, anyone? 

  1. Can you share any favourite memories or discuss any particularly rewarding projects?

One of my first big projects at Black Inc. was Lily Chan’s Toyo, a beautiful memoir about her Japanese grandmother. I got along really well with Lily, and the book ended up winning the 2013 Dobbie Award. Lily and I have become such good friends that I can’t imagine my life without her and her family. She’s not the only author I’ve befriended – my work has brought lots of lovely people into my life. Not every author becomes a friend, but I always want to be on friendly terms with them, and I have a huge amount of admiration and respect for them in general. Working with dedicated authors is always rewarding.

  1. What are some of the common mistakes you see writers make, particularly in regards to debut novels?

This is a public service announcement: If we’re talking about mistakes in first-time authors’ manuscripts, then timelines! Please, for the love of all that is holy, draw up a detailed timeline whenever you redraft your novel or memoir. Don’t just take months and years into account, but also seasons, holidays and mealtimes.

Outside of the manuscript: In my experience first-time authors often don’t do a lot of research into the industry before submitting their work. You don’t have to do this to produce a brilliant manuscript that becomes an international bestseller, but it might help. Why not take a few hours to learn about the industry, at least the Australian part of it, before you jump in? It’s important to know that you should try agents before publishers, for example; it’s also good to know about advances, agent fees, royalties and rights sales.

  1. What trends, if any, do you see emerging right now?

I’m really hoping we’ll see more speculative fiction published in Australia – commercial or literary, I don’t care, just more. This is for selfish reasons because I want to work on it (please send it to me), but also I think there’s more of a market for it than many mainstream publishers and booksellers realise, particularly among millennial readers. I was pleased to see this article (sorry, it’s behind a paywall): https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2019/02/20/123334/a-new-hope-for-un-real-fiction-rose-michael-on-speculative-fiction.

  1. You too are a writer; do you mind sharing your writing routine with us?

Unfortunately I don’t have one at the moment! I have a lot of paid editing work on my plate, and I’m the breadwinner in my household, so I need to focus on that. I’ve written a young adult novel, but I’ve hardly started on the road to getting it published.

The last thing I wrote (mid-last year) was a short memoir piece for a collection of essays, Split, which will be published by Ventura in a couple of months and was edited by Lee Kofman.

  1. Are there any resources or tools that have supported your creative practice?

The RMIT course was an amazing experience. I wouldn’t have written my novel without it, and I’m convinced that this writing process also made me a better editor. It also helped me feel empathy for writers; many editors don’t know what it’s like on the other side. But of course not everyone can afford to do a course, or to do internships, and I’ve come to realise that I was extremely privileged.

Something that also helped me a lot as a teen and young adult was writing fanfiction, a free resource that anyone with an internet connection can access. You just have to be interested in someone else’s characters and be willing to play around in their universe, and you instantly have an audience, editors and fellow writers to chat with. With no money, no pressure and a lot of supportive women and LGBT+ people involved, most of the time it’s a lovely place to write, share your work and hang out. If you’re interested, a good place to start is the Archive of Our Own: https://archiveofourown.org.

~*~

You can find Kate on Twitter: @KMGoldsworthy 

The Professional Edit

Note: If you prefer video content, you can access the vlog version here.

Writing is not a solitary task but a collaborative effort. The first draft (and several after) may be crafted with the door to your office firmly closed, but eventually, you will need to let others in. The feedback, critiques and advice from other writers, readers and professionals can help us to see the flaws in our work, such as excessive use of filter words, repetitive phrases, redundant sentences, plot holes, inconsistencies, and incomplete character/story arcs.  Novels contain multiple moving parts, so it’s easy for a writer to make a mistake. This is why editors exist: to help writers turn good stories into great stories.

If you are fortunate enough to get a deal with a traditional publishing house, then your manuscript will go through multiple rounds of editing. If you are interested in self-publishing, then I urge you to have your manuscript edited. Readers are savvy. They don’t want to pay $2.99 for a novel that is actually a first draft. Readers want good stories and if you are a self-published author, it’s your responsibility to make sure you are putting forward the best, most professional content that you can. That means you need to get your work to an editor.

However, before you go sending your manuscript off to the first person you find online, it’s important that you understand the different types of editing available. And by the way, if you are serious about being a writer then you should hire a professional editor for the following three processes: structural/developmental edit, copyedit and proofread. You may have to hire different editors for all three stages, or you may find an editor who offers all three.

A word of advice, if you hire an editor to do the structural/developmental edit and copyedit, it may be wise to hire a different editor to do the final proofread. Why? If an editor has performed both the structural and copy edit on your manuscript, they may miss errors/typos during the proofreading stage because they have become overly familiar with the work.

Structural/Developmental Editing

Structural editing focuses intensely on the novels core drive: character and plot. Typically, a structural editor will read your entire manuscript while taking careful note of how each element of the story is working. They will analyse your work for consistency, believability and effectiveness with a particular focus on big-picture elements such as:

  • Voice/style
  • Plot
  • Pacing
  • Timeline
  • Characterisation
  • Story Arc
  • Character Arc.

Some structural editors may also provide feedback regarding the manuscripts potential target audience and its overall marketability.

Structural editors will provide a report that analyses the quality of your manuscript. This may take the form of a letter that discusses the manuscript as a whole, or they may provide a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. Either way, this report should identify:

  • Plot holes
  • Inconsistencies
  • Lack of tension
  • Pacing issues
  • Irrelevant characters, scenes or plot development
  • Believability of characters
  • Whether the work is engaging
  • Areas of confusion, particularly in SciFi and Fantasy.

Structural edits do not focus on the manuscript on a line level (sentence-by-sentence). Instead, it is looking at the bigger picture and how the novel hangs together. For this reason, the structural edit should be the first round of editing your manuscript goes through.

Copyediting

Copyediting, or what some call line level editing, focuses on the manuscript on a sentence-by-sentence level. Here, editors are looking for problems regarding:

  • Grammar
  • Style
  • Repetition
  • Word usage
  • Jargon
  • Filter words
  • Dialogue
  • Unclear character motivations.

The copyediting phase should not occur until after the structural edit has been completed. There is no point in fixing an entire scene, sentence-by-sentence, only to have that scene deleted because it isn’t furthering the plot. These types of edits typically occur as in-document critiques using track changes. 

Proofreading

Once all the large structural issues with your manuscript have been fixed and you’ve carefully examined every sentence for clarity and quality, you can then move on to the final round of editing: the proofread. Like I said earlier, if you used the same editor for the structural edit and copyedit, it may be wise to hire a different editor (someone unfamiliar with your work) to do the proofread. It never hurts to have a fresh set of eyes—especially when it comes to editing! Proofreading is the lightest form of editing as it focuses on minor errors such as:

  • Grammar and style (e.g., tense, measuring units, consistency with numerals and words such as “5” or “five”)
  • Capitalisation and punctuation (e.g., correct usage of commas, semicolons, colons, periods, dashes and apostrophes)
  • Spelling and word usage (e.g., to/too, affect/effect).

You may be tempted to skip the proofreading stage, but please don’t. You’ve already put so much work into polishing and editing your manuscript, the last thing you want is to receive an email from a reader highlighting all the typos and errors that were missed during the copyediting phase.

Critiques

Critiques are not a part of the editing process, but they can be tremendously useful. You can pay a professional to critique your manuscript (I offer such services), or you can approach other readers or writers who may be willing to critique your work for free. Critiques focus on the major issues in your manuscript and a good critique should focus on big-picture elements such as:

  • Voice/style
  • Plot
  • Pacing
  • Timeline
  • Characterisation
  • Story Arc
  • Character Arc.

You can have a critique partner provide feedback of your manuscript as a whole, or you can ask them to provide chapter-by-chapter reports that focus on elements such as:

  • Plot holes
  • Inconsistencies
  • Point of View Issue
  • Dialogue
  • Description (too much or too little)
  • Areas of confusions, particularly in SciFi and Fantasy
  • Sensitive/ethical issues or anything else that may harm your chances of publication.

Before you hire a structural editor or look for a professional critique, it would be wise to exhaust all free resources at your disposal, this includes beta readers, critique groups and critique partners. That way, your manuscript is in the best condition is can be before you invest in professional feedback.

Editing a manuscript can be hard work, but if you find an editor you ‘click’ with then this collaborative effort can be deeply rewarding.

If you have a short story, novella or novel that you believe could benefit from a professional critique, you can find my list of services here.