I asked if you had any questions for an editor, and you did.
Author and editor Annie Acorn is here to answer!
Elira: Hello Annie, it's great to have you on my blog! When did you start writing, and how did you become a successful editor and publisher?
Annie: Basically, I’ve been writing all my life. In fact, I joke that, while some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, I was born with a pencil. One of my double majors in college was English with a strong slant towards creative writing, and there has been a component of writing in all of my various occupations throughout my lifetime.
At one point, I edited an in-house magazine for the State of Mississippi and began publishing short works in various periodicals. Over the years, I have joined numerous writing groups as we moved about, and I also attended writing seminars whenever they were available.
Finally, I ended my career doing contract, technical writing for various, federal government agencies, including NIH, AHRQ, SAMSHA, HHS, and the Office of the National Coordinator, before starting Annie Acorn Publishing LLC (@AAPublishingLLC – annieacornpublishing.com), where we have published works for over 25 authors worldwide.
Elira: Tell us about your most recent release.
Annie: I write across multiple genres, including nonfiction. My most recent release Bright Treasures is a cozy mystery set in the fictional, small town of Bright Seas, situated along the shore of Puget Sound.
The main character, Angelique MacDuff, is a young widow who believes her husband was murdered, despite evidence to the contrary, and sets out to prove this with the help of a number of unique characters, including a miniature Doberman named Lady Grace – pictured on the book’s cover.
As with all my cozy mysteries, this one is filled with clues for careful readers bent on solving the mystery before the book’s end, but these are surrounded by multiple, humorous passages, a bit of light fantasy and three romances, so those who don’t pay attention will only learn the truth of Richard MacDuff’s death at the end.
Elira: What is your strategy when editing an author’s written piece? What do you focus on most?
Annie: First and foremost, I strive to do no harm. Think of the story as a silver teapot. As an editor, my job is to make it shine, not to turn it into a chair.
As for my focus, it depends on the role I’m fulfilling. Am I there as a developmental editor, a copyeditor or to address some other editorial concern? I’m always watching for these two major problems, but I also look for problems with subplot story arcs, character development, narrative versus dialogue text imbalances, missed opportunities for story development, and passages that, while well written, don’t move the story forward.
Elira: What's the one ghastly mistake to avoid when writing fiction?
Annie: That’s easy. You NEVER want to throw your reader out of the story.
Example: You’ve failed to describe your alpha male in a romance, and all the sudden, on page 150 out of 302, his deep blue eyes flash. If the reader has been ‘seeing’ him as dark-haired with dark eyes, this will disrupt their enjoyment of the story.
Elira: In your opinion, what makes good writing?
Annie: In the simplest of terms, allowing the characters to tell their story. A writer who can step back and release control to the characters they have developed will always end up with a better story.
On the flip side, I believe that most writers’ block occurs when a writer tries to force one or more of their characters to do/say something they wouldn’t do/say based on how the writer has developed them.
Elira: What's your approach to giving constructive feedback to an author?
Annie: I always stress what I like first and last. In the middle, I state what troubles me about a passage and then offer suggestions about how the issue might be fixed, thereby turning the situation into a learning experience.
Elira: Which story in your portfolio are you most proud of?
Annie: Goodness, that’s like asking me to name my favorite child.
Chocolate Can Kill was my first book to reach #1 in its category and has now sold tens of thousands of copies.
A Clue for Adrianna, written under the pseudonym of Charlotte Kent that I use for the Captain’s Point series I produce collaboratively with Juliette Hill, is the first novel offered, and I’m proud of having written it in the way that was needed to successfully launch a successful series.
Snowbound for Christmas, a happily ever after romance set on Christmas Eve of 1945 at the end of World War II, consistently reaches #1 in its category every December, so I’m more than willing to hang my hat on that one.
And then, there’s my entire Luna Lake Cabins series, beginning with Luna Lake Cabins – The First Year. This whole series is close to my heart, because it draws upon my childhood experiences hiking and camping in the Cumberland Mountains of East Tennessee.
Elira: What is the number one tool you recommend every writer use?
Annie: I’ll give you three that I believe are equally important.
One, visual your story as if it’s a play on a stage. This will help you keep track of where each character is and how they would logically interact.
Two, employ as many of the five senses into your stories as possible, because these are common denominators we all share and will draw readers into the story.
Three, when rewriting/editing read your story aloud slowly. This will help you to locate missing or extra words and aid in your correcting flaws in cadence and flow.
Elira: Why should writers hire an editor?
Annie: The short answer is that two sets of eyes are always better than one, and we all make mistakes. I’ve written successfully for decades, and I still have others whose opinions I trust review my work before it’s published.
Elira: What can authors who can't afford an editor do to compensate?
Annie: Always allow your manuscript to grow cold for at least a week before editing. Don’t confuse rewriting with editing. Make a list of common editorial concerns that you know you need to address – removing words like very, just, going to, and infinitives for instance. Don’t edit for periods of over an hour. Don’t over edit to the point that your sentences are perfect, but you’ve eliminated your voice. Make sure every scene/section/chapter moves your story forward.
Elira: What is your view on epithets?
Annie: I’m not crazy about them. Usually, there’s a better way of making the point, although they can occasionally be useful when writing humor.
Elira: Views on the Oxford comma?
Annie: In general, I’m for them and use them in my work. There are times, though, when a series of three short words comprise the series, that the cadence and flow of a sentence is improved if such a comma is omitted.
Elira: What advice would you give to writers trying to pitch stories for publication?
Annie: Keep trying, and constantly strive to improve your approach, making note of lessons learned as you work your way through the process.
Statistics tell us that you are guaranteed a sale for every 144 attempts, no matter if it’s one manuscript submitted 144 times or 12 works submitted 12 times. For some, the lucky hit comes quickly. For others, it may take longer.
Elira: Let's get to know you better! Who is your favourite author and why?
Annie: What a question! ***She glances at the 14 bookcases that surround her*** Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Cyril Hare, Dickens, Dorothy Sayers, Georgette Heyer, Josephine Tey, Marjorie Allingham, Ellery Queen, Rex Stout – all of these authors have enriched my life through the years, as I’ve read their works over and over again.
Elira: What was your dream job when you were younger?
Annie: My dream was always to be an author, who was in a position to write what she wanted, when she wanted, and I’m extremely lucky to have achieved that goal. Now my goal is to help as many others as possible to achieve this goal as well, which is why I constantly tweet writing, editing, and publishing tips via @Annie_Acorn.
Elira: What is the best part of your day?
Annie: Any time I’m writing or teaching writing to others.
Elira: If you could have an unlimited storage of one thing, what would it be?
Annie: Good health, because that usually leads to more time in which to achieve everything else.
Elira: Do you have any hidden talents?
Annie: When I was a teenager, I started my first of six successful businesses, teaching knitting to women through the summer vacation period. In college, I worked as an assistant manager in a yarn shop, and today I knit and/or crochet afghans and prayer shawls that are distributed through Warm-Up America to a children’s home, a shelter for abused women, and a drug abuse recovery center.
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Annie Acorn's Books
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