Working with a freelance editor

category_icons03WORKING WITH A FREELANCE EDITOR – I’ve been the fortunate recipient of an Arts Council grant to fund me whilst I write my fifth novel. One of the brilliant aspects of the grant is that I have been able to hire a freelance editor to read the latest draft of my work in progress. I was lucky enough to work with Ali Reynolds, who was an editor at Vintage, Random House, before moving to Bristol and starting up her own company, Arc Editorial, which specialises in freelance editing and mentoring.

You might think there isn’t much need for an editor prior to getting your book published Arc_Blueand it is not cheap (although it’s incredibly good value for the amount of time and expertise you receive) – but in my experience, it’s invaluable.  I’ve had two 2 book deals with publishers (John Murray and Black Swan) and am now between contracts – so I don’t have the luxury of working with an in-house editor.  As Ali says:

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Creating Characters II

category_diary80CREATING CHARACTERS II – Is your character based on a real person? This was the first question from Richard Beard, director of The National Academy of  Writing who chaired The Writers’ Conference, organised by freelance editor, Ali Reynolds and held at the Bristol Festival of Literature last week. Patricia Ferguson, author of The Midwife’s Daughter, and I were discussing characterisation.

Patricia Ferguson, Sanjida O'Connell, Richard BeardMy protagonist, Emily Harris in Sugar Island, is based on a real person – the actress Fanny Kemble. This was a bit of a mixed blessing as there was so much information out there already about Fanny, numerous biographies and the diary she wrote, which I used as the basis for Sugar Island. I did change her personality a bit, partly for the purposes of the story and partly because I condensed the action down to a year and a half instead of it taking place over half her lifetime, so Emily remains a young woman throughout the course of the novel. It was a relief when about a third of the way into writing the novel, Fanny finally became Emily, and her husband Pierce, truly became Charles, in my mind.

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