I recently concluded a series of posts about my writing process. In the series, I talk about the various stages of editing I go through to get the story where I want it to be. One of those posts discussed the importance of using an editor. Since I’m very happy with my editor, Joshua Essoe, I wanted to give him a chance to promote himself on my blog and have readers learn a little bit about writing from his perspective. Below is a quick interview we did via email. I hope you enjoy it, and if you’re a writer, please consider using Joshua in the future. You won’t regret it!
Q: Who is Joshua Essoe? Give us a bit of background about yourself.
A: I wasn't an army brat, but I moved more times growing up than any of my friends. The best of my childhood was spent tramping through the woods, scrambling up boulders the size of my house and building rafts from discarded pallets and found flotation. I attended four highschools, took classes from five colleges, and a friend recently told me that out of all the people he knew, I'd had more jobs than any of them. Most of the time I've worked for myself. I did art and book restoration for a decade, real estate for another, and I'm chipping away on that decade of editing now. Never did get a degree though.
Q: How did you get into editing? Is this something you always saw yourself doing?
A: Through writing. I was that guy who all my friends came to for a look at their writing or their paper. I've been editing since they discovered that not only would I read what they'd written, but I'd get excited about it with them. I pulled together writing groups, I created school newsletters, I wrote editorials. Funny thing was that it never occurred to me to try it for a living until a friend of mine, Moses Siregar III, asked if I'd be interested in editing his first novel, The Black God's War. After that I cultivated the chance to edit for David Farland and things took off from there.
Q: Do you have a job outside of editing?
A: I've worked very hard to get away from it. Being a real estate agent was a stop-gap, and I was quite successful at it for a while. But, as you can imagine, it's not quite what it used to be. I'd say I spend about ten hours a week at it now. The rest is devoted to editing.
Q: What are your qualifications as an editor? What experience do you have?
A: I've been editing and writing fiction for a quarter century. Does that sentence make me sound as old as it makes me feel? As a sampling, in the last six months or so I've edited eleven novels, three short stories, and a novelette; including manuscripts for New York Times bestseller, David Farland, and nebula award nominee, and Writers of the Future winner, Tom Crosshill. Every new project gets everything I've got. I think you can see the results of this through the generous and truly wonderful things my clients have written about my service.
Q: What genres do you feel qualified to edit?
A: What kind of fiction wouldn't I edit! Story is transcendent. It's about the ins and outs of character interactions; with one another, with their environment, with society, with government. Setting. Conflict. Try/fail cycles. Getting the movie running in your head.
That being said, I love me some epic fantasy, science fiction and horror. Zombies have a warm, gooey place in my heart.
Q: What types of editing services do you offer?
A: Comprehensive content and line editing. Sometimes, depending on the project and how awake I'm feeling, I'll offer to double up if an author really needs their MS done before I have availability in my schedule. I'll essentially work overtime after my regularly scheduled program has concluded for the day.
I also do a little publicity for my authors. I try to let people know about their books on my social networks and website, joshuaessoe.com. It's exciting stuff, so people should know about it!
Q: How do you approach editing a fresh manuscript?
A: Like a ninja. A ninja with a laptop and a timer. Or maybe a Jedi. . . . Yeah, a Jedi would totally beat a ninja. You can tell just by the capitalization.
Q: What are the three most common weaknesses/mistakes you see in your client’s writing?
A: Disregarding formatting, I'd say overuse of passive voice is easily the top gremlin. I'll soon have a blog about passive voice going up on my site. Confusing action sequences, and backwards descriptions that take you from the least important thing to the most important, instead of the other way around, tie for the second most common. Strangely, I think there is a lot of confusion about where and when to begin new paragraphs. That would probably be the next most common.
Q: What advice/tips would you give to new writers? What areas should they pay extra attention to?
A: As banal as it is, the most important advice I can give is that if this is your dream, if you sleep and breathe stories and start to shake when you can't write -- don't give up. One of my favorite quotes, from JA Konrath, I think, is: "There's a word for a writer who never gives up . . . published." A lot more can be said on this, but since I just got a wonderful guest blog post from Brad Torgersen for a collaborative site I'm a part of called fictorians.com, I'll direct you to that. It's a great read. I think Kevin J. Anderson cross-posted it to his site the other day.
More specifically, learn your craft. Read the books they say are important to read, do your research on technical aspects like formatting, take online classes on how to write query letters, go to seminars and workshops. Don't think that you don't need to learn these basics. You do. Meet your peers, make contacts, build your platform, you never know if that guy you roomed with once is going to be the next Dan Wells or Brandon Sanderson. Grow a thick skin, enjoy your rejections, they're your right of passage, and for God's sake, practice, practice, practice. This is not a sprint, so don't be the hare.
Q: I know you’re also a writer. How long have you been writing? What genres? Do you have any specific goals?
A: There's a story about a grasshopper named Dan and his herd of racing snails in some old box in my parent's house, I'm sure. I've always written fantasy and science fiction. As it turns out my first book will be a zombie novel. And it's going to be awesome. I just have to make time in the space between one breath and the next. Somewhere around the editing, the wife, the three cats, the embers of my real estate work, and the short stories for Writers of the Future. My third entry got an Honorable Mention, so after I got over the initial disappointment of not winning the Gold Award, I was pretty jazzed. I'd like to place in the competition before moving forward with writing, but you've got to seize your successes as they come.
Q: How do you juggle time spent on your writing with the rest of your life?
A: Like a tightrope walker at night with a guttering candle balanced on his head.
This is not as easy as it sounds.
Q: What are some of your favorite books/authors?
A: Okay, some current favorites off the top of my head. . . . I have a small man-crush on Brandon Sanderson, mum's the word. Loved the Mistborn series, and a couple years ago he helped me onto the next level in my editing. Rhiannon Frater and her As the World Dies zombie trilogy. I've read a crap-ton of zombie novels and hers really stand out above the slush. Anything Charlie Huston does is pretty much fantastic. And David Farland who has become a teacher and friend. His Runelords books are some of my favorites, but I discovered him way back in highschool when I read The Courtship of Princess Leia.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: My what?
Actually, many thanks to my wife who has made me take one day off every week. First person horror shooters are great--the scarier the better. I'm an award winning miniature painter. I hate running but love starting and finishing. In fact in the fall I hope to combine loves with Run for Your Life in SoCal. I love everything about climbing and sitting on the couch watching movies. Figure out how to combine those two and you'll have your perfect activity.
Q: For those who might be interested in your services, how can they contact you?
A: Check out my site: http://www.joshuaessoe.com. Send me an e-mail or find me on Facebook!