A Q&A with Anne Hamilton
Editor & Writer
With the recent publication of my third novel, Time Will Tell, I can definitely say it’s been a journey. I’ve learned a lot, sometimes by trial and error, but one thing I have discovered, if you want to write novels and write them well, you need a good editor. I know for some writers, especially those just starting out, hiring an editor is an expense they can do without. There are other options of course. For instance, having a team of great Beta readers can help point out the gaps, errors and pitfalls in your manuscript, however, where possible I’d always recommend using a professional editor, plus the Beta readers. Therefore, I’d like to introduce you to the lovely Anne Hamilton, the brilliant editor who worked with me on Time Will Tell.
- Hi Anne, can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself?
Hi Eva, it’s a pleasure to be here! And can I just say how much I enjoyed Time Will Tell – the perfect ending to the trilogy.
I am, indeed, lucky to be a writer and an editor, and since I’m a bit of a nomad, too, it’s great that both of those can be done from more or less anywhere. I’m never exactly sure whether I come from the Fens or the West of Ireland…so I’ve ‘compromised’ by settling in Edinburgh, where I live with my eight-year-old son. We enjoy the odd jaunt to Bangladesh, where I’m a trustee of Bhola’s Children, a charity set up on foot of my first book, a travel memoir called A Blonde Bengali Wife.
I originally started out in social work, sidestepped to epidemiology, and finally found myself doing a postgraduate course in Creative Writing, which has led to my freelance work as a writing tutor. When I’m not reading or writing, I’m invariably baking or helping construct LEGO creations – often at the same time!
- You are a writer as well as an editor, which do you prefer doing and why?
I’ve often been asked if editing is second-best because I haven’t (yet!) made it as a best-selling author. But honestly? I love editing. I love the creativity of structural or development editing (looking at a story as a whole) and the nitty-gritty precision of line or content editing (checking and polishing the finished article). Whether it’s my own work or someone else’s, having words to play with, working out the best way to communicate a story is like an enormous, satisfying jigsaw puzzle.
Being a freelance editor means my hours are very flexible so I can fit in mum-time or writing-time – often quite chaotically, it must be said – and for me, these three things go hand in hand. There’s many a dreich Scottish Monday morning when I look out of my kitchen window at the commuting traffic and remember how lucky I am that I get to stay at home and make up stories for a living.
- What does it take to become a professional editor and, if anyone reading this is considering it as an occupation, how would they go about it?
I’ve been a reader and writer since childhood (my first ‘book’ was called The Little Blue Elephant and was kept in pride of place in Deeping St James County Primary School library for years!) and I’d say enjoying both of these is essential. In fact, all the Ps come to mind: being persistent, pedantic and patient. Editing is painstaking work and, like writing itself, the only way to build up the skill is to practise, practise, practise.
I never set out to become a professional editor, it was whilst doing my PhD, I realised I had something of a flair for it. It really goes hand in hand with mentoring, so I started by tutoring students, teaching online, and gradually building a (small) business from there.
I’ve met people who have been journalists, teachers, completed English degrees, worked as interns at publishing houses…so there are many roads to becoming an editor.
- And finally, what one piece of advice would you offer to newbie writers and editors?
Very few people get rich or famous from writing or editing, so you really need to enjoy the process for its own sake. For writers, I’d add, don’t compare yourself to others – your unique voice is your greatest asset – and for editors, edit the book the author wants, not what you think s/he should have. For some authors I’m a hard taskmaster, for others, a cheerleader, others still, I play devil’s advocate…
…And how could this answer be edited succinctly? Read, read, read, and write, write, write!
Thanks for being a guest on my blog today Anne, and for your brilliant, informative replies to my questions.