Writing is a solitary task. It involves sitting down in your writing space and opening a computer or a notebook and putting words to the page. Sometimes this is easy, beautiful, and wonderful. And then there are moments of pure struggle where you feel like the words are being pried out of you with a crowbar. Editing is often a similar process, but luckily, editing does not have to be solitary. In fact, it’s better when it isn’t.
Last year around this time, I came back to writing after a very long break. I hadn’t been following a writing routine for ages. I struggled with every story I wrote (or so it felt like), and I started small. I took a look at some short stories that I had already started and began re-writing them. As I did this, the stories began to grow and blossom. Some of them were okay. Some had potential to be great. The words started coming back to me, and I found myself falling back in love with writing.
But then I hit a little wall. I love being able to get editorial feedback on my work, but I didn’t know too many writers back then who could offer me feedback as often as I needed it, and the freelance editors I had worked with in the past were closed to new projects. And then kind of like a sign, a friend shared a post on Instagram. A freelance editor, Nicole Evans, was booking new clients. I thought, well, why not?
I reached out to Nicole who began working with me on my short fiction. Her feedback was invaluable. She was seeing all the parts of my story that were there, and all the parts that were missing, the ones I couldn’t see for myself. I was immediately blown away by her talent and keen eye for editing. Nicole helped me push my stories further than I ever imagined they could go. In the short span of a month, I learned more from Nicole than I had ever learned in any writing class I’d ever taken. I’m not embellishing- her knowledge and resources blew me away.
As I continued to work with Nicole, a friendship started to form between us, one I’m immensely grateful for. I think writing communities are so hard to find, but once you find one, it’s like having this beacon of light, shining for you all the time. Nicole has introduced me to so many wonderful writers who I correspond with often. I’ve gotten to read several of their books and offer beta reading. I have gotten feedback on my own writing as well, and again, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have people out there who will read your work, expand your horizons, and help push you to be the best version of yourself.
Nicole has inspired me in a thousand and one ways. She is an amazing editor and an amazing writer too. I’m so very honored to have met her, and I think that she offers some fantastic editing services that people should really take advantage of. Nicole also inspired me to create this blog. It’s something I really considered for awhile, but I definitely felt a bit of imposter syndrome. She has been rooting for me all along, and I am so grateful for it. I asked Nicole if I could interview her about editing, writing and just herself! Here’s just a snippet into the wonderful person that she is. Let her words and advice guide you in your own writing journey. And also, please check out her blog and website which features tons of amazing resources for aspiring writers.
1. What advice can you offer aspiring writers?
This might sound cliche, but write for yourself. Publishing is a grueling industry, so rejection is going to happen. A lot. So it’s important that you love what you’re writing. Because some days, that love will feel like all you have to keep you going. Some days, it’ll feel like no one ever wants to read your work. That’s a lie. Yes, publishing is subjective. And yes, not everyone is going to love your work. But you deserve to write the stories you want to tell. And it’s okay to love them.
2. How do you approach editing professionally? What is the difference in your approach to a full novel versus a short story, or a query letter?
Editing professionally is such a unique experience, especially compared to editing for yourself (so, apt third question) To me, the first thing I always center is the writer. I have to remember that what they’ve given me is a gift (insert Boromir GIF). Stories are part of our hearts that we share out into the world. So, when I’m editing, I always want to remember that, so I always strive to be kind (even if I have a strong opinion or critique about a piece). Secondly, however, is that the writer is trusting me, as a professional AND as a paying client, to be honest with them. Our goal is a shared goal: to improve the story. So that means being honest about what is not working, as much as being honest about what is working. I never want editing to feel like it’s too daunting to overcome or that you’re a failed writer afterwards. I want us to be a team, for my writers to feel supported and to grow both strengths and weaknesses. And to be honest, for the second part of your question, I take the same approach to each medium, but obviously each type offers its own requirements and challenges. For example, I think a lot more like an agent when working on a query letter than when I work on a short story or a novel, where I’m thinking more like a reader.
3. As an aspiring writer yourself, how do you approach editing your own writing versus someone else’s? Which do you find to be more challenging?
Oh, editing my own work is so much harder, hands down. I’m invested in my own work in a much different way (the heart on my sleeve aspect), which, for me, makes it harder to pull away and see its flaws, because I’m also aware of what I’m trying to do at my core with that particular story. It’s easier to be objective with someone else’s work. I have found, however, that the elements I notice the most in someone else’s work often reflect what I should be looking at with my own writing, too. It’s a nice wakeup call.
4. What books and authors have influenced you as a writer?
Gosh, there are so many. The biggest influence from my youth was Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet. Alanna was the first girl who I remember reading about, which was such a refreshing change to the male-heavy SFF I read as a teen. Yet it wasn’t until I started seeing women–both characters AND writers–who were pushing the boundaries of SFF that I started to realize that I, too, could take up space as a female writer. It wasn’t until my sixth or seventh novel WIP that I wrote a female protag. And I think that speaks mountains about how male-dominant this industry can be. Some of my favorite writers currently include: Tasha Suri, Megan E. O’Keefe, Fonda Lee, Erin M. Evans, C.L. Clark, Marina Lostetter, Lisbeth Campbell, Kerstin Hall and Leslye Penelope.
5. What do you think the biggest challenges are for an aspiring writer in the current publishing industry?
Keeping confidence in yourself enough to continue pushing forward in the industry. This might just be my personal experience, but I’ve queried over half a dozen novels in the past decade, with no “traditional” success. My relationship with my writing changed dramatically after I tried to enter the industry professionally. And that was before the pandemic shined a light on many of the inequities, inadequacies and burnt out nature those in the industry are suffering from. So, protect yourself, your heart and your writing.
6. What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Oh, it’s all over the place. I’m a mix between a plotter and a pantser! Currently, I have 20+ page documents of worldbuilding and a rough outline for my current WIP, but no idea how we’re getting from point A to C. (Middles are always the hardest for me.) And it varies with every novel. So I guess I’m a fluid writer, with my process always in flux?
7. What are your hobbies when you’re not reading, writing or editing?
Video games! It’s practically my only hobby I have if we take away reading, writing, editing and blogging, which are all interconnected. But I love playing video games (which is the main reason I read less than I used to). Some of my all-time favorite games include: Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Horizon: Forbidden West and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.
8. What are your favorite genres to read and write in?
Fantasy is absolute top. But I also enjoy reading science fiction (usually light) and romance (regency, steampunk or *very select* paranormal). I’ve gotten into fantasies that have mysteries embedded in, which is fun! Writing wise, almost all of my WIPs have been fantasy, with one attempt into SF. And the latest my first foray into fantasy romance!
9. What do you consider your greatest strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to writing? How do you use those to your advantage/ try to overcome them?
Greatest strengths would be descriptions and character. Greatest weaknesses are middles, plot (I like tropes and vibes more lol) and being too heavy-handed about what I’m trying to write in my early drafts. It often takes multiple drafts to get it right–or at least close to right. I think recognizing these weaknesses and strengths is a great first time. But, it’s also important to remember that you can always improve, but you need to celebrate your wins, too!
10.If you could give any advice to your younger self about writing and editing, what would it be?
Protect your love of writing, but don’t be afraid to learn craft. Learning craft will not suddenly take away what makes your writing yours. Ideally, instead, it’ll help you tell better stories.
For those of you in the querying trenches, Nicole is an amazing resource. Not only does she offer editing services, but she offers invaluable traditional publishing prep such as a query letter markup. She’s just such a great editor with so much knowledge and experience behind her, and even beyond that, she is an amazing writing friend to have!
Ahh I loved this so much! What a fantastic interview! I can also attest to Nicole’s incredible skills and empathy when it comes to editing your work, everyone should definitely hire her!
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You’re going to make me cry, Meredith 😭
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This just makes my day so much! Thank you so, so much again, Nicole! It means the world and I am rooting for you so utterly! 🥰
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