Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book-Editor Interview: Natascha Jaffa (SPJ Editing)

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Interview with Book-Editor Natascha Jaffa

Interview with Natascha Jaffa
Alan Kealey (Indie Author News): Please, tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Natascha Jaffa (SPJ Editing): I’m Natascha Jaffa. I’m convinced my mom named me after the Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle, but decided to confuse people by putting a “c” in there. I’m originally from Vegas, wound up in Utah, got married in the process (hence the Jaffa portion of my name), and came back down to bake to death in Sin City. For some reason I’ve always excelled in English Literature in school and knew by the time I was 21 I wanted to write.
Easier said than done as I’m sure most of you know. I queried my first novel the second I finished writing the first draft and actually couldn’t believe agents rejected me. How dare they! But I kept going.
Five years later, I’m now published under the pen name Nichole Severn (because I run my own freelance editing business under my real name) and just shifted into writing thrillers. You know, because they’re awesome.
I read non-stop, I run non-stop (training for Ragnar) and would probably be rich if I could just stop eating chocolate.

Can you tell us a little about the experience at SPJ Editing?
I started SPJ Editing because I wanted to teach writers the things I wished I’d known when I first started writing.
My main goal is to make my client happy. They are, in essence, letting go of it and trusting me make their work shine. I do that by teaching through showing (not only telling them to change something, but the reason behind the suggestion) and offering the best support I can.
Because I only accept submissions one at a time, I supply my clients with weekly updates to keep them in the loop and make sure they know they are my first and only priority.

“The best writing is rewriting.” (Stephen King)

How important is it to have a book edited? Can the author not do this by him/herself?
My favorite editing quote is, “The best writing is rewriting.” by Stephen King. As I mentioned above, I was shocked to learn agents didn’t want my first book (by the way, it will never see the light of day) and through that experience I learned writers are blind to their own work.
I’m an editor and I can’t even edit my own work! So I make other people do it for me.
Our work comes from us. It’s engrained in our minds and close to our hearts. We’re creating art, not analyzing it. And because of that, writers miss small things, maybe repetitive phrases or words, misspell a word, tell instead of show, even overwrite.
We become so involved in the story, our brains aren’t focusing on the small things. They’re focused on the imagery we’ve created.
That’s where I come in. As a person who has never seen your work, isn’t related to you or afraid to hurt your feelings, an editor will give you the best chance of polishing your manuscript by catching those things and teaching you to avoid them in the future.

"Don't trust Word Processors!"

Please explain the different kinds of editing services like Proof, Copy, Full Edit.
Details for each of my services are available on my site, but here is a little bit about each:

Substantial (Full) Edit: For the author that needs help with plot, pacing, character development, narrative arc, and other "big picture" stuff.

Manuscript Critique (Proof): For the author who needs a quick evaluation of dialogue, conflict, flow/tension, and description.

Copy Edits: For the author who needs an analytical eye when it comes to grammar, punctuation, and spelling. DON’T TRUST WORD PROCESSORS!

Synopsis Critique: For the author who hates writing the "dreaded" synopsis and needs a second opinion on the overall flow and structure of your manuscript.

FREE Query Help: For the author who needs help structuring their query, delivering the perfect amount of information in order to catch an agent/editors attention and finding those credentials.

How does the process of book editing work?
When a writer inquires about one of my services, I always provide a quote and a sample edit first. The specifics of each service are detailed on my site (site listed below) so the client knows exactly what to expect. From there, we discuss deadlines, avenues of intended routes for publishing and what they expect out of me. If the details are agreeable, my clients sign a contract for every project they send to me for their protection and mine and we get started.

From my end, once I receive the manuscript, I reformat it for easier navigation (unless already formatted for self-publishing). Chapter by chapter, I make comments, tighten writing, give compliments and ask questions along the way. At the end, I have an outline of the entire book and can easily see what does or doesn’t work for the story, make sure it flows well, that the characters are developed and backstory and description are in proportion.

With the first pass complete, I run over any loose ends, make sure my comments are understandable and provide research needed.

This process works in my client’s favor by first catching the small things (inconsistencies, etc) and then approaching the novel as a whole on the second pass.

How much time does the author need to calculate for the editing process?
Deadlines completely depend on the length of the manuscript. SPJ Editing accepts emergency orders, but we tend to steer away from them in order to avoid rushing through it and missing something. That being said, for full-length manuscripts, clients should expect a turnaround time of about 30 days.

In the process of choosing a book editor. What questions does an author need to ask? Can you recommend what to discuss?
These are the questions I recommend every author to ask me if they haven’t already researched my firm or me.

1. What are your qualifications?
2. Do you provide a sample edit?
3. Do you provide a contract?
4. When can I expect the work to be completed?
5. Have you helped writers become published (traditionally or self)?
6. Can I see recommendations from your previous/current clients?
7. Do you accept payment in chocolate? (One day...one day.)

At what stage of the book writing process should authors contact a book editor?
THE END. It’s very difficult for editors to do their job and give you the best advice when they don’t have the complete picture, specifically with a substantial edit.
Just as if you were submitting to an agent or an editor with a publishing house, the submission needs to be revised and complete. Please :)

"I love an author’s willingness to learn."

What do you most appreciate in writers who use your services?
I love an author’s willingness to learn. My clients pay me to polish their manuscript and I accept that as a chance to teach. If they fight me every step of the way, it strains the relationship and the work suffers in the long run.

What kind of feedback do you receive from authors?
I keep an updated list of testimonials on my site for inquiring writers, but at SPJ Editing, I’ve been very lucky to receive amazing feedback from my clients. They’re specifically impressed with my turnaround times and the depth in which I evaluate.

What’s something that people might be surprised to learn about being an editor?

The most surprising thing? Editors have a life outside of editing.
It’s hard to imagine, I know, especially when we tend to read four to five manuscripts a week. Most people don’t even read four to five books a week. However, I have a day job, I’m married, I’m training for the Ragnar Relay Series, and I still go to school. While SPJ Editing is my priority in this part of my life right now, I still make time for other things that make me happy. Oh yeah, and I’m hilarious.

What trend have you seen in submissions to you lately, and what do you wish you would see more of?
I see a lot of Romance. Romance makes up a large portion of published titles in the industry with YA following close behind. However, I’d love to get my hands on some thrillers, fantasy and science fiction.

What do like most about editing?
I love my job because I have the opportunity to help writers grow. Knowing I made their work stronger, resurrected the passion they lost and giving them enthusiasm to keep going makes my day.

Thank you so much for the Interview, Natascha.


Unknown said...

Great interview! I've learned so much from Natascha. Not only did she edit my novel, but explained why I should make the changes. I've learned a tremendous amount from her edits and hopefully that will shine through on book #2.
Thanks for all you do,
Beverly Preston

Anonymous said...

It seems, unfortunately, that many independent writers are very poor and cannot afford to hire editors. I can only encourage them to save their money, for as long as it takes, until they have enough to pay a competent editor to make their book look good.

Natascha said...

Thank you for the kind words, Beverly! And Anonymous, you're definitely right in that department. It may take a while, but it will be worth it in the end.

Janet Green said...

Fabulous article. I feel related to this lovely gal, in spirit at least.

Lisa at Amalfi Blue said...

Very interesting and so true. Writing a book is like giving birth.......over......and over......and over again. It's a joy but so tiring! LoL

Lauren I. Ruiz said...


As a freelance editor who wants to help writers but also wants to make a living, I do see this as being very unfortunate, and my advice is the same as yours, save up; it's important. (And by God don't self-publish without having sought professional attention.)

Anyway, awesome interview. I agree with Natascha's methods and respect her integrity. :)

Charles Miske said...

Even if you think you can edit yourself, a fresh set of eyes can be valuable, since they have no idea what it is you thought you typed.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting that there seems to be only one type of writer: the one
who REALLY needs "someone else" to look at their work. In fiction we create so many personalities, in the real world we say their are so few. It is a convenient way to make money. I have what you haven't got.....I think I will believe that the opinions of those to whom the financial advantage comes, are not the ones I would trust for a balanced view of the editing/no editing question.

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