Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Editorial Opinion: Part 1 of an Interview with Steven Beeho.

After a couple of months chasing, I’ve managed to catch up with Steven Beeho, a writer and editor at Daverana Enterprises, to ask him a few questions. This was no mean feat – I’ve even had Janrae Frank holding him by the ankles, trying to break him into submission. But he’s a tough one, that Beeho, and when he could no longer avoid the inevitable, he stood up and took it like the cantankerous git he is. 

This week, Steven talks about editing.

mai-phay:      What came first editing or writing?

Steven:          Writing. I never did any editing until I started talking to people online and helping them out. I edited my own work, and did that a lot, so I got to be good at it, but never considered doing it seriously. I just ended up doing it. 

Mainly it changed when I met Janrae and she was stuck on the fifth book of a series. I offered to read it and give some feedback. I kicked her arse into gear and after that she kept turning to me for more of the same. 

mai-phay:      So when the editing work increased was your writing compromised, in terms of time? Did you find it enhanced your writing the more editing you did?

Steven:          It definitely cut down on my time to write. I used to write nearly all the time. Once I was editing an old book of mine while writing a new one, but didn't find the juggling act to work very well. I found it hard to get into the new one while thinking over the older one. But doing editing and being edited has taught me a lot, yes.

mai-phay:      What's your greatest bugbear when it comes to editing and being edited?

Steven:          As a general bugbear on editing, I don't like editors who try to change what the writer did. The writer has a style and a voice. You shouldn't mess with that. 

It makes me think of that episode of The Simpsons where Homer gets a promotion and then an assistant. This assistant sorts his life out for him and takes him out to get a measured suit. When being measured, Homer sucks his gut in. The assistant tells him off. He says, “You let it all hang out.” Then points at the tailor and says, “You hide it.” 
For me, that is how it works between writers and editors. Writers should just let it come out. Editors need to dress it up so no one sees the flaws and joins. That is certainly how I write and edit. I just get it done writing wise and worry about fixing, smoothing, correcting and refining later. 

When it comes to being edited I accept most fixes and will try and improve on anything that doesn't work for the editor. Although I refuse to budge on certain issues if I feel they are integral to the story or are just plain right. 

But then the value of editing is that you take a correction, think about whether what you did is really good and proper and correct, and then can move on. It challenges you. You either come out sure of yourself or you make an improvement. Ideally anyway.

mai-phay:      I agree with you. At the end of the day, if it's integral it would be fruitless to alter it.

Steven:          True.

mai-phay:      Without naming names, what has been the most memorable edit you've done?

Steven:          The only time I kind of gave up on one was when I started reading it, the story was full of repetition and small issues. It was hard to read the story itself.

What had happened was it had been written some time ago by two people, then it had been rewritten by one of the original pair and a new writer. When I talked about the problems I was having, it was taken back so the writers could work on it and brush it up.

mai-phay:      How do you find working for writers?

Steven:          Writers will always be very sensitive about their work. They spend hours and hours thinking ideas up and creating characters, then more hours writing it all, and then more going over it. You work really hard and (you should) love what you do. Then someone comes along and points out every flaw there is. It is never a pleasant experience. You either wonder how you missed them or don't like having something you don't agree with being pointed out to you as a flaw.

mai-phay:      But then doesn't that come back to how you deliver your critique as much as whether they take it in the spirit intended?

Steven:          I tend to always say to writers that what I am doing is more advising and nudging them to what I think is right. Some things I am sure of and, if I know the author, I will make those changes myself. Typos will be the main thing there.

Anything that affects the story or character I never insist on, no matter how strongly I might view the issue. Ultimately it is their book, not mine. I fix and hide flaws, not write it myself.

The more I know a writer the more insistent I can be, but mainly I try to sugarcoat the corrections. It helps the writer to take it in but also makes it more likely that they will accept the fixes. But I will point out any flaw I see and question anything I am unsure of. I believe in making sure of things.

mai-phay:      I can understand their protectiveness, especially with something they've spent serious time in crafting.

Steven:          Exactly. But at the same time you have a job to fix what they have done, not hold their hand and stroke their ego.

mai-phay:      Well, I guess, as an editor you need to be sure because you are as only as good as your last edit, which is pretty much the same for writers and their writing.           

Sugarcoating and Steven. Somehow I can't see it...

Steven:          I do it once and that's it. ;) I got the nickname Git for my editing ways. Guess that says a lot.

maiphay:        I thought it was for your cantankerous nature.

Steven:          That too. That and the Uppity. Maybe I think I am being nice, but to other people I am being strict.

mai-phay:      No, you just tell it how it is. And that is worth shed loads. Editing has made me even more aware of mistakes.

Steven:          Yes it does. I found the more I edited, the more I spotted mistakes as I wrote. Also, I just became more aware of what is right and wrong in writing anyway. Errors should always be pointed out.

mai-phay:      Did / do you find that you're more critical of your work because of editing?

Steven:          Oh yes. Be hard not to be. I almost always write everything down on paper first. Then I read it, then I type it up. When I started typing things up, I found myself really thinking through what I was writing. 

Sometimes a sentence that works on instinct doesn't work when you think it through. Reminds me of what Harrison Ford said on Star Wars, “You can write this shit, George, but you sure can't say it.”

Mind you, my handwriting is scribbles. Sometimes I get stuck trying to figure out what the hell I wrote.

mai-phay:      Hahahaa! Writing really is a lost art. I totally get what you say about writing then refining when typing. It's actually quite beneficial.

Steven:          I think so, yes.

mai-phay:      Do you keep all your handwritten notes or chuck them after drafting?

Steven:          I keep everything. I'm a packrat. I have every full story I wrote stuffed in a draw. The originals for shorts too. The originals for Sojourners are kept together and in groups for future collections. I doubt I could throw them away.

And there you have it.

Steven, one of Daverana’s finest editors and emerging writers, is definitely one to

His enthralling debut collection of post-apocalyptic short stories,  
Sojourners in Shadow, 
is out now and available at Amazon and Smashwords.

In the next post, Steven talks about writing. But in the meantime, find out more about Steven's shenanigans by following @StevenBeeho on Twitter, Steven Beeho on Facebook and his blog, uppitymonkey.wordpress.com

Be prepared for a no nonsense approach to life.