It fills me with terror when I see short turnaround periods offered for manuscripts on some freelance service platforms, where folk offering many different services can utilise to garner business. Often a guaranteed timeline is presented upfront without assessing the writing requiring the work. Is it arrogance or ignorance of editing skills involved?
Editing speeds vary from person to person. Yes! this is a set of skills that requires the human brain, not AI, not an app!
Multiple factors feed into how long a project will take, such as the type of editing, word count, language(s) used and the overall condition of the manuscript. Another critical factor is the editor’s familiarity with the writer’s work. The more familiar, the more we know the nuances and common errors that arise and the slicker one can become in completing a manuscript.
When I see small house publishers or independent writers churning out book after book, I wonder how much time is spent on this essential process and how many passes a book undergoes before publication. I also wonder ‘who’ is editing. It’s a dangerous assumption that any writer or reviewer can also be an effective editor. Editing is far more than reading and spotting the odd typo. Unfortunately, the latter is a common ignorance in particular writing circles and some so-called ‘editors’.
As a serious writer with pride in your work, you should consider these questions too. Consider what an editor and publisher can genuinely do to add value to your process before signing a contract.
From my desk (and I’ve already explained how many factors play in), I average 1k-2k words per hour. I reiterate this is editing, not reading.
As a simple example, a 60k manuscript = 60 hours of work. What would you expect to be paid for working 60 hours?
This little example is worth considering when you are pricing an editor — who will have additional tasks before the edit begins on your piece. The essential set-up stages also cost them time. And as the saying goes, in business, time is money.
When I set up my editing business, Word Refinery, I offered introductory rates. As a passionate freelancer and supporter of creatives, I supported small publishing houses with additional discounts at my own expense. Independent businesses incur more costs than just time — which is one of the most valuable commodities. And, of course, the cost of everything is rising worldwide. With that, Word Refinery fees are under review.
Professional relationships between writer and editor or publisher and editor require a two-way level of respect. Fees are an integral component of that.
I will admit something that, like so many independent writers, can be torn apart. And I also acknowledge there can be pitfalls – some gatekeepers regard this audacious move as career suicide regardless of experience or qualifications.
Not only do I professionally edit works for other writers, businesses and publishers, but I do something else regarded as a grave sin.
I, as a writer, self-edit, and I publish it!
I must be insane, right?
Imagine an artist controlling their art! Ensuring every stroke of the brush is theirs. The absurdity!
Editing is an independent skill in writing. This is a fact. With that, it is true that an editor isn’t necessarily a skilled storyteller and vice-versa. These can be common misconceptions. I have read poorly self-edited work and work edited by so-called editors who were glorified spell-checkers and saw themselves as prescriptive grammarians, thus stripping a piece of style and substance. Editing (in the independent writing and publishing world) is a highly sought-after skill and grossly undervalued.
I have spent much of my life writing and editing across many forms, and when I began publishing books in 2018, I honestly did not consider passing them through an external editor’s desk. Ignorance at the time was perhaps in part to play. I, admittedly, did not consider hiring an editor as part of the process. And now, with a couple of years of publishing experience where I have learnt something new with every title and even when working with others, would I change it? Personally, no.
Why? Well, I’ve worked with editors and writers who take prescriptive approaches, and in such methods, so not hold a place in creative writing. I’ve also been ‘edited’ by terrible communicators who have ignorantly ‘corrected’ spellings of Celtic or Scots words to a form of English, thus destroying critical seeds of the story and publishing their mistakes in my work under my name. An editor’s job is to polish and enhance, to bring out the best in a writer’s work, not diminish their voice and make them look stupid. I’ve learned many lessons from both. In my writing and skilled self-editing, I’d rather make my own mistakes that I can correct than have someone else do it and not take responsibility and rectify their shortcomings.
Rigid, prescriptive processes can have their place when writing for a corporate audience and developing educational materials, in which I have much experience. But artistically, a prescriptive approach to editing has no place; one size does not fit all.
My choice to self-edit is not one I take lightly. As a freelance editor, I am not ignorant about the depth of such a task, and as with any other piece of written material that crosses my desk, I consider, correct and develop: punctuation, spelling, syntax, morphology, overall structure, make cuts of redundancies, tautologies and lines or passages that don’t drive the story forward, and of course, consider developmental opportunities, and the author or publisher’s specified needs and style which I always discuss prior to working with them. I consider the narrative voice and those of the characters to ensure they read authenticity. And another vital component is style — a piece of creative writing should have rhythm and motion, like a great painting or music. If it’s rigid and static, as it would be following a prescriptive approach, it would be stale.
Even with such vigorous attention to my work and my clients, I am not infallible. No editor is, and I don’t trust anyone who portrays themselves as so. Neither should you.
Hogmanay nears, as does what can barely be avoided — the annual consolidation, the ‘review’ as we step over the next threshold.
It’s been another year of tumultuous news and events stabbing the air in-house and in close proximity. Health issues have arisen in many, some near and dear, some farther but no less dear to me—several with fatal implications, where time somehow runs faster on the clock. My heart has shattered a few times. Such is the way it goes.
Covid hit my house with a bang. I was pregnant, and the baby, Averey, died inside my womb when I had the worst symptoms. Since our second bout in July, long Covid symptoms have persisted, including with my young children. The year that we hoped to grab some social normality has demanded much push.
One of the many benefits of home educating (not home-schooling) is that the pressure and stress on children not to ‘fall behind’ on a prescribed curriculum and being ‘marked’ by ‘poor attendance’ due to health issues beyond control is absent, avoiding undue pressure on my kids’ mental health, to which almost anyone who has been schooled and has health issues can relate. All public services in the U.K., including schools, seem to be on a steep downward slope, faster than ever before. The unrest is palpable. That being said, home educating isn’t all skipping through the daisies! Many days have their challenges, and being the literal full-time parent and educator is tiring — and that was before the long-covid fatigue. Still, we get each other through, and the alternative isn’t an option.
As always, writing has been a constant. Separate from my creative writing, it’s been my introvert-central-management system since childhood. Sketching is too.
Professionally, I have had the pleasure of editing works by some fantastic writers this year — some serious jaw-dropping, inspiring talent. One of the last short stories I edited had me reaching for my inhaler! That author painted a vivid anxiety, paranoia-ridden piece in their protagonist — I felt it all! The subversive angle of the work while playing off the backdrop was skilfully moving. I was in awe. In the massive catalogue of literary genres, the immense skill some horror writers portray is hugely underrated, all due to that simple label ‘horror’. You’ll find the asthma attack-inducing story in KJK Publishing’s The Horror Collection: Sapphire Edition.
This year Ruthann Jagge and I joined forces and created Brazen Folk Horror to share our collaborative works. We have been sharing weekly updates there and have many more ideas for the future. As with this site, readers can subscribe to receive those updates directly in their mailbox. The debut collaborative novel under our exclusive in-house imprint, Delevan House, releases on the 1st of February 2023, and the second book in that series is underway. I’ve shared before about how I adore working with her. We’ve each had much to contend with this year. At times, we’ve both been swimming against a ferocious tide, but we have prevailed and have created something unique from Scottish and Celtic folk inspiration. You better believe my girl and I are indeed Brazen as fuck.
Getting back into academic study has been challenging to make space for, but somehow It’s been working out, in sacrifice of sleep! I passed my first module and started my second towards my English Language and Literature degree. The second part has been immensely inspiring. I am enjoying it far more than I anticipated. It’s ignited old and new passions for my own language, those that I’ve been surrounded with and the broader scope of the world. I’ve been evaluating how this entwines cultural and individual identity. This leg of the course has lit a few fires.
Onto the books published under Clan Witch this year:
Asylum Daughter — my psychological horror novella set in Glasgow, Scotland. I’m proud of how this piece turned out. I loved writing it and got to exorcise the asylum.
The Crash of Verses by Rafik Romdhani — this is Romdhani’s second published collection. His poetry is among my favourites of recent years. If you have not read him, pick up this book. He is an exceptionally skilled modern poet.
Incesticide: Collected Horror — my second collection of short horror fiction. It includes nine stories featuring urban folk horror, a touch of splatterpunk and fairytale horror twisted with BDSM, among other assorted flavours for those who enjoy a taste of different things.
Clan Witch: Found Shadows, my collection of free verse poetry and drabbles. This brings together small pieces scattered with other publishers and some never before published poems. Not all truth and not all fiction.
There have been other written pieces published throughout 2022 in the form of short stories, poetry, articles, forewords and copy for other titles.
What about the birds? Birds have been a significant and symbolic component in my year. Before the baby was born, magpies started frequenting my garden. They never had before. In truth, I was never a fan of the species. (Largely due to a childhood memory or a magpie killing sparrow chicks in a neighbour’s garden. It was such a brutal attack, not for a meal or anything. It seemed to enjoy causing the suffering and instigating horror in the flock of sparrows screaming at the beautiful beastly creature.) Other corvids, such as their cousin, jackdaws, yes. But never the magpie. Of course, going through pregnancy and loss again, this felt strikingly symbolic. For the longest time, there would be one—a dark omen. One for sorrow… as the months have passed, groups of them now frequent the garden along with the smaller birds, which have their daily routines flying in for a feed and natter. Adopting ex-commercial laying hens scheduled to be slaughtered has been tremendously healing. We brought them home less than two weeks after our loss. Building for them and supporting their transition to domestic retirement felt like a productive and helpful use of grief energy. Then the hens have taken in robins. The birds have been inescapable and have become a significant feature of Delevan House too.
Life and creativity can be inseparable, at least elements of each. Twisting tendrils that reach out to be touched and woven into new patterns.
I am wrapping up, as I didn’t intend on doing this kind of update this year! There you have it, a wee mixed-bag summary of 2022. I best be off again, I’m currently hauled up with an unwell small. Her feverish chattering dreams spill out into the dark in a torrent, and I wish, as many parents do — I wish I could soak up the fever and take all the pains away, for always. But life has so much more of that in store. I will have to be content with holding her for as long as I can and as long as she needs.
The darkness is drawing in, approaching the longest of nights, and I wish for what I always do here and the world over, peace.
In times when the costs of everything are skyrocketing, and artists have a hard enough time as is. I implore my fellow writers, even if you’re commanding the mammoth task of editing your own work, do not rely on editing software. It’s a mistake that your work and reputation will suffer for. Can your career afford that? Even premier-rated software is a poor substitute for the human eye and mind. This is especially true of fiction works.
I repeat: Editing software is not a substitute for an editor. It cannot take the place of an editor.
As a freelance editor, I often take on projects where I am the sole editor. Many independent writers, independent publishers and small presses can only afford one editor, whether in-house or by hiring another independent like Word-Refinery. This makes the process different to large house publishers, where multiple rounds are passed through multiple eyes, which incurs greater costs.
In the business of freelance editing, this is where, as an independent, editing software can be a helpful tool. To act as another pair of ‘eyes’ for the independent editor after they have completed their edits.
This is how I utilise such software – as a tool at the end of the more critical manual edit.
This software does not understand tone and the expansive varieties of Englishes. These softwares lack awareness of genre targets. They lack the ability to support the development of a text so that it reads in a way that leaps from the page and is not ‘flat.’ These softwares often apply sensitivity alerts which can strip a piece of its integrity, style and diminish the author’s voice.
Even if you cannot afford to hire an editor, editing software is not a substitute for an editor, even at a premium rate.
Witches’ New Year approaches. With that, I’m Autumn cleaning, creatively speaking, at least. Washing away the dust of the summer fires, sweeping this germ-ridden circle clogged with ash. I say this with every positive intention, which in the current climate of my sick house, it’s not so simple. Some things are outwith control, but I try flow with, around, through it. (I may have recited ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ a few too many times). Starting with the writing. I’ve taken part in only a few invite-only opportunities. This year, it has been difficult to say no, but something I’ve had to learn to do fast. It’s been challenging; each opportunity offered has been for a great project, and I am profoundly grateful to be asked. Short fiction writing has been on the back burner, which was always this year’s plan to invest in my degree studies and researching/writing longer works. Moving on, a quick recap of my own books released and scheduled to tie up 2023:
There has been lots of work going on in Brazen Folk Horror, which I launched with Ruthann Jagge this year. Here we share regular updates on ‘The Making of Delevan House’. We have many plans to execute, so it’s a great space to follow. You are cordially invited! We expect you to put in some effort—get tight-lacing, break out the good cloak, your best finery, and you better buy an extravagant hat while you’re at it. It’ll be one hell of a ride! You will want to be watching for that pre-order date as soon as we announce it. In the meantime, come enjoy the brazen tease and seduction.
Well, it’s been tumultuous and stable on the homestead with no middle ground— a seesaw over starving shark-infested waters more than a rollercoaster. The pendulum never stops. My kids and I have been struggling with fresh ongoing health issues since the start of the year when we contracted that virus. It then came in for a second hit in July, which haven’t recovered from. Between chronic coughs requiring prescription medications, chronic fatigue and opportunistic germs that keep jumping on board because of compromised immune systems, it’s been a royal shitshow. With medical support services (the NHS) being abysmal. My family (I) also suffered another pregnancy loss. During the second bout of that virus, my baby’s heart stopped beating, and I gave birth four weeks later. We were (are) devastated.
Grief so intimate is a profound journey we carry with us throughout our time on the rock. Lives that were given a second chance coincided with the loss of my last baby, Averey. My family adopted a small flock of ex-commercial layers (Hens) from The British Hen Welfare Trust. I have shared little updates on their settling-in and shenanigans on social media. The ladies (our little Queens, as we call them. On account of naming them after Drag Queens: Jinkx Monsoon, Bimini bon boulash, Raja and Ginger Minj) are so very full of stories and have settled in as though they’ve always been part of the family. They are part of the clan. Some things are meant to be, and these Queens were never meant for slaughter.
Something about coming from 2021 into 2022 held promise and a thirst for change. More than a thirst, it was a drouth of dry agony. So many I know felt it—a need for rewiring, redirection, reinvention, or simply getting back on track. The year hasn’t quite lived up to the promise. Instead, it’s been more like treading water. Trying to stay afloat, and more, fighting to survive. I guess that’s life for the most part. An ongoing battle, with Jack-in-the-box obstacles springing forth at any given moment. Damn clowns. Tomorrow will be better.
The veil is thinning as the gears continue to cycle. There’s much reflection as we dare to lift the veil and step through the shadows, opening locked doors to visit with ghosts. This season welcomes the shadows, where the light and dark dance. It’s almost Samhain. Listen… whose voice can you hear calling from the ether?
Sweep the circle, burn the candles, lay out the feast, and set out coveted photographs and letters from the dead. They’ll be here soon. )O(
I’m sweeping the circle. The bones and remnants of word fusions are being expelled to make way for new spells. This collection is set for release in Hogmanay 2022. The preorder is live now.
Digital ARCs will be available well in advance of release, if you are a reviewer who’d love a first look at Clan Witch: Found Shadows, my mailbox is open for enquiries to be added to my priority early reader list.
Synopsis (subject to tweaking)
Do readers buy poetry from undead poets?
There’s nothing quite like picking the prose and verses of the dead like vultures. There’s freedom in that unpicking, with no one alive to contest, at least not the mind which birthed them.
Sinclair consumes written and spoken as she does in its lyrical form, dressed in music and paint. Dancing to the beat or screaming into the voids of despair. Here, Sinclair presents Clan Witch: Found Shadows, no music, no paint, just words. A mix-tape of drabbles and anarchic free verse poetry..
The writer still lives. Perhaps you’ll read her unruly verse before the witch is dead.
Talk about curveball 2022! Another year of madness! There were plans. Big beautiful plans! And while those plans still exist, there has been movement because of those unexpected transitions life has her way of throwing. Personally, I’ve had some family upsets which I predominantly have to deal with and process alone (my partner, of course, has supported as much as one can). I’ve angered, been frustrated, hurt, grieved, run myself in circles, hurt some more, and accepted. Because sometimes that’s all we can do. Accept to find crumbs of peace and carry on. It just takes a little time. It’s a process many are familiar with. It’s been heavy.
Following the acceptances of a triple-pronged hit, I’ve another unexpected ‘bump’, who made himself known in a dream. My kids are excited about another sibling to teach and get up to extra mischief with. Since I have complicated pregnancies, and this one has already given us some wobbles, I’m (again) doing everything within my control to keep this little one inside until late 2022, ideally early 2023. My cervix needs a mantra, and this is the last! The instant physical hit means I’ve been heavily fatigued, and as of that wasn’t enough, I’ve been hammered with mine and the kids’ second bout of Covid of 2022. Because I wasn’t wiped enough by the heavy graft underway in my uterus, I am zapped because my lungs are in battle, and my body feels like it’s been used as a punchbag.
Moving in from all of that, onto the writing front update:
My sassy, immensely talented, and inspiring co-author, Ruthann Jagge and I launched our website, BrazenFolkHorror.com, for our upcoming 2022 release, Delevan House and future projects. Ruthann also released her fantastic solo debut novella in January 2022, The New Girls’ Patient; if you haven’t read her, this is an excellent example of her extraordinary work that should be on any horror fan’s reading list.
I’ve still been editing work for other writers and publishers via Word Refinery and also published poet Rafik Romdhani’s collection, The Crash of Verses.
I am working on my degree course too.
The latest developments has zapped my study schedule. I hope to recover enough to make up for that soon. Deadlines are looming! Anthology wise, unlike in the previous two years, I have not responded to any open calls. My dance card has been packed. I have gratefully received several invite opportunities but unfortunately had to decline several. One that I was able to submit a piece to was with KJK Publishing’s The Horror Collection: Nightmare Edition, which has just been released. It’s the biggest collection of the twelve-book series and worth picking up for a good flavour of many popular independent horror authors currently putting our new materiel.
More still to come for 2022, and 2023 is also beginning to fill up with a couple of accepted invites, continued work with my brazen co-author in crime and at least one (hopefully two) solo release(s). One of which will be a collection of poetry and drabbles, Clan Witch: Found Shadows.
I wrote my first short story of 2022 and submitted it to a publisher at the weekend.
My aim this year was always to pull away from short story writing (and submitting) to focus on longer works, my coursework and editing.
And I’ve stuck to it pretty rigidly, even when declining offers is painful! But spreading oneself too thin degrades everything.
I’m not going to go into the details of this short story, but I will say that its content, along with recent conversations with other writers, got me thinking; If I had a higher readership, I’d be cancelled.
I know there are many faux pas and taboos that change over time, and my work constantly bears the weight of uncomfortable themes. Horrifying right? One of the reasons I now include content warnings is to support readers sensitive to particular themes. It is not a poor taste marketing strategy. It is genuinely to deter readers that could feel hurt by my work. If I’m doing my job correctly, my work (in horror particularly) should be uncomfortable.
Over the last few years, there has been a notable request for ‘diversity’ from publishers demanding representation from marginalised groups — in a writer’s personal circumstances and in the characters we create to tell our stories. In this quest, many are outright discrimination, the very thing they claim to be trying to ‘correct’. ‘We demand diversity and representation unless you’re a cis white male’ being the most prominent. How dare they! On top of that, these diversity thumpers are dictating the presence of character archetypes in a creative’s work! ‘No LGBTQI+ representation? Better squeeze one in there, to keep everyone happy.’
Well, quite frankly fuck that! I don’t fall in line with any dictatorship! And it has zero place in art of any kind!
I am anti book banning.
I am anti art burning.
I am anti-censorship.
I am anti-dictatorship.
If you don’t like an artist’s material — don’t buy a ticket, don’t read their work and don’t dictate how anyone else should feel about it! Such arrogance is deeply misguided and kills art. It doesn’t promote it; it doesn’t promote equality or diversity. You’re foolish if you think that it does. The great tapestry of creative output is the very definition of diversification and multicultural without a pre-set dictated agenda!
Music is such a profound part of my writing process and always has been. With the imminent release of my novella, Asylum Daughter, I wanted to share the music that formed the soundtrack to the writing of this piece.
Art influences art, and I couldn’t create without music. Every piece I write has its own playlist. Sometimes, those playlists are unexpected and not my taste, but the characters have their styles. I can’t argue. The soundtrack to Asylum Daughter was ‘80s heavy and all good by me.
I can’t wait to hear what you think! And feel free to check out some of the early readers thoughts on Goodreads.
I have a collection, ‘Incesticide: Collected Horror’, releasing later this year, which borrows an album title (much like my first collection in that hat-tip). I deliberately designed the cover for the upcoming with an indie-artsy feel in homage to its namesake.
‘Murmur: Collected Horror‘ felt a little out of place since that cover didn’t reflect the feel to the same extent as the newbie. I decided to redesign the jacket. This is what I do when I procrastinate!
Updates are processing with immediate effect on ‘Murmur: Collected Horror‘. I have a small stock of paperbacks (I’ve no hardbacks left) with the original cover. Once they are gone, they are gone! That makes them extremely limited.
Once I check what I have, I’ll update on Facebook and on Instagram — if you want one, you can drop me a DM on one of the socials once posted — first come, first served.
Apologies, for the paperbacks I have remaining in stock it will be UK postage only.