Iola Goulton is an editor and upcoming novelist who lives in and loves New Zealand. I got to know her through the Australasian Christian Writers group on Facebook and was so impressed by her posts that I asked if she’d edit my novel.
1. You didn’t start out in the book world. What was your journey into editing?
In a word, circuitous. Some might say it was a series of coincidences, but I don’t believe in coincidence. I lost my job in 2009, a victim of the global financial crisis, and that put an end to my book buying habit. A couple of years later, I won a book in an online giveaway. This introduced me to the world of book reviewing. I found I could get free ebooks in return for reviewing them online.
My reviewing brought me to the attention of Rochelle Manners of Rhiza Press. She was organising what would later become the Omega Writers Conference, and invited me to speak. At the same time, a friend introduced me to a local Christian who was writing a novel, Catherine Hudson. Catherine asked if I’d like to read her manuscript, I asked if she’d like some feedback, and she said yes. Freelance editing seemed a perfect marriage of my hobby with my skills. So here I am!
2. What does an editor do?
There are different kinds of editor. An editor employed by a publisher might be responsible for acquiring manuscripts for publication, or for getting those manuscripts ready to publish. This might be developmental editing (plot, structure, characterisation), line editing (improving the writing), copyediting (spelling, grammar, punctuation, and word usage), or proofreading (that final read-through before publication to check nothing has been overlooked).
I’m a freelance editor. Freelance editors work directly with clients, who may be authors or publishers. Some editors specialise in certain types of editing e.g. developmental editing or proofreading, while others specialise in certain genres e.g. academic editing.
I specialise in Christian fiction (with a particular interest in women’s fiction and romance), and offer developmental editing, line editing, and copyediting services.
3. Not everyone has the ability to be an editor, what is it about you that makes you a good fit for the job? What kind of editing do you do? How do you improve as an editor?
I’ve taken online editing courses from The Christian Proofreaders & Editors Network, and writing courses from Lawson Writers Academy, and American Christian Fiction Writers. I’ve also read (and recommend) a lot of books on writing craft, and on editing—and there are always more books to read.
Different aspects of editing take different skills. Developmental editing requires a good knowledge of the genre—that’s where my background in reviewing helps. Line editing and copyediting require knowing the ‘rules’ (punctuation, grammar, etc.), but also knowing when those rules can and should be broken for literary effect.
4. Could you walk us through the process? Maybe ‘a week in the life of an editor’.
In a perfect world, I’d have enough work that I could edit for four or five hours a day, then spend the rest of the day on my own writing, or on marketing (such as writing blog posts). But this isn’t a perfect world, so I have busy times and less busy times. I also still do some freelance work in HR, my professional area of expertise.
5. What difference does it make that you’re a Christian?
Being a Christian and specialising in editing Christian fiction means I get to work on novels that reflect and reinforce and share our faith. It’s a privilege to partner with Christian authors as they minister to others through fiction, bringing the love and hope of Jesus into the world. And I’ve been privileged to meet some wonderful men and women of God.
6. What is frustrating? what is satisfying in the job?
What’s frustrating is when potential clients send me a manuscript for “proofreading” when it actually needs several rounds of revision and editing. A novel is more than 90,000 words in a document. Those words have to have a plot, a structure, a character arc.
Yes, it’s a huge achievement to write a first draft. But it’s only the start of the process. If Stephen King revises his manuscripts ten times, we need to do the same. I’m sure this is equally frustrating for the client, who thinks they’ve almost finished their book until they see my thousands of suggested changes, and hundreds of comments.
What’s satisfying is when a client comes back for a second or subsequent edit—especially when I see the quality of their manuscripts improve. It says they are serious about the craft of writing, and they appreciate how I can help them.
And I love seeing the final product and adding their book to my special shelf!
7. You’re not just involved in your own editing business but much more broadly among Australian/NZ and even international Christian writers. I don’t think you’re being paid for it, so why do you do it?
No, I’m not paid for that! I’m the Zone Coordinator for the international (non-US) members of American Christian Fiction Writers. I contribute to several blogs, and I’m one of the administrators for the Australasian Christian Writers Facebook group and blog.
Why do I do it? Networking with other writers is one of the best ways to learn about writing, about publishing, and about marketing (all must-have skills for all modern writers). And we do need to keep learning to keep on top of trends. Yes, even writing has trends. I have people I learn from, and I try and pay that back and forward by sharing what I’ve learned.
Networking is also a great way to connect with potential editing clients, and future readers.
8. You’ve started writing yourself – why? What are your hopes?
Yes, I’m writing myself (although not as much as I’d like to—see my answers to 4 above). I’m writing contemporary Christian romance with a New Zealand setting (write what you know). I wrote my first novella, Play On, Jordan, because I’d been invited to a one-week Margie Lawson immersion course—and I had to have a manuscript to attend. With Margie’s help, that manuscript won the 2016 Genesis Award (Novella).
I’m currently working on a series, with Play On, Jordan as book four. Or maybe book five. I think writing my own fiction is giving me a better idea of the complexities of plot and character, and an appreciation of the difficulties my clients go through in getting a manuscript to editing stage.
9. What’s the most important thing for a Christian writer to remember?
Follow God. There is a lot of discussion about what makes a novel a Christian novel, and whether Christians should be writing for the general market. I believe we’ve all got to be faithful to God’s calling on our lives—whether that’s writing for the churched, the unchurched, or the once-churched. We must also be gracious towards those who have a different calling—. Most of all, we need to have a commitment to learning so our writing is the best it can be, and that we are good stewards of the talents God has given us.
And network with others. Join a writing organisation, and connect with others on social media (I love Facebook for connecting). I’m a member of five different writing organisations, and all feed my writing and my spirit in some way.
You’re going to ask which writing organisations, aren’t you? Well …
American Christian Fiction Writers
The Christian PEN (Proofreaders & Editors Network)
Omega Writers (Australian)
New Zealand Christian Writers
Romance Writers of New Zealand (because they have excellent local conferences—and I’m speaking about Christian romance at the 2017 conference)
I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at www.christianediting.co.nz to download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction.
I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more at www.iolagoulton.com.
You can also find me on: