Welcome to a new series on chocolateandpaper.com! I decided it was time to pay it forward but didn’t know how. I don’t have any free books to give away. Nor do I have editing skills someone would covet.
So The Five Question Interview was born! Its mission: to give back to the writing community one interview at a time. Without further adieu, let’s learn a little bit about editor Jeni Chappelle.
Jeni Chappelle is a freelance novel editor with ten years’ experience, co-founding editor and board member for Revise & Resub (#RevPit), and EFA and SCBWI member. She considers herself a hobbit (minus the big, hairy feet) and lives in a tiny town near Charlotte, NC with her family and way too many pets.
Jeni’s Advice for Writers
“I know the idea of working with an editor is terrifying for a lot of authors, and I understand why! Editors have a reputation for hacking manuscripts to pieces, or worse, shifting the manuscript so far away from the author’s vision that it feels almost unrecognizable. I strive to break those stereotypes and show that editors are people too (some, anyway). I always keep my Twitter DMs open to answer questions about writing and editing, and I have a slack group for writers that’s open to anyone who wants to join. I’m always happy to help however I can because I just want to see everyone succeed!“
And Now The Interview
So, Jeni. You are an editor with the #RevPit contest and all the submissions and decisions just happened. What are you feeling about this years’ entries as a whole?
It astounds me that the entries get better every year. This is the first time I can say that I’d be happy to work with every single author who chose me as their editor. I credit the support of Twitter’s growing writing community. Writing contests have helped, but there are so many lovely pockets of encouragement and help. My most recent favorite is Rewrite It Club, which was created by KJ Harrowick and Jen Davenport. They are doing great things with their weekly chats, blog posts, and slack support group. Some hashtags I always recommend are #CPMatch (which has their next event coming up on April 27th), #OnThePorch, #PositivityPass, and of course #RevPit.
You’re very active online. How do you juggle your time between editing and interacting?
The last few weeks have been a lot, even for me! But I have ADHD, so I find I work best in short, focused bursts. And since I work from home, I use Twitter as a break when I start feeling distracted, kind of like chatting around the water cooler in the office. Checking in with my writing and editing friends helps me stay inspired and motivated because I have so much respect for all of you out there working toward your publication goals.
Speaking of online life, there’s loads of advice out there. From things that are clearly “old school” to what’s more widely accepted, how do you keep your clients from believing in publishing misconceptions?
I try to be a voice of balance. Writing advice often comes across as absolute. Even in my copy editing, I don’t believe absolutes serve most stories well. But nothing is ever a never: you can’t (and shouldn’t try to) write 80,000 words without using adjectives; sometimes prologues or flashbacks are actually necessary; and believe it or not, YA does always not have to be first-person POV. Instead, I try to shift the focus to what really serves each individual story because if it works, that’s all that really matters. I’m a big believer in knowing “the rules,” which I often say are more like guidelines (insert Pirates of the Caribbean gif here), so that you can break them intelligently when you need to.
How do you choose which manuscripts you work on? Is it based on a good working relationship with the potential client or because you like the story? Or…
For the RevPit Annual Contest, it’s such a complex equation that includes my connection with the story, the author’s demonstrated mastery of writing technique, being in the sweet spot for how much revision is needed, if I have a clear idea of how to approach the revisions based on the additional materials (ie, without reading the whole manuscript), and whether the author should have enough time in the five weeks to complete a full set of revisions.
In my day-to-day editing business, the only clients I turn away are those whose writing really isn’t ready for an editor yet, and I always offer suggestions for their next steps and often try to help them find critique partners because I believe so strongly in that relationships as beneficial to every writer. I know a lot of editors don’t like working with new authors, but I actually really enjoy the teaching aspect that can come with editing. It’s so satisfying to me to see that metaphorical light bulb come on in an author’s mind when they understand a new piece of the puzzle that’s been holding their writing back.
I asked Maria Tureaud this question in her interview, so it seemed fitting to ask you: cake, pie or neither?
Ha! Since Maria is like my editing sister, that’s definitely fitting. So, weird thing about me: I’ve never liked the texture of cake. When I was a kid, it drove my aunt crazy, and she tried something different every year to try to get me to like cake. When I turned 30, I finally said enough and haven’t eaten cake since (except one bite at my friend’s wedding). Pie is OK, but I’m really a pastry girl. There’s an incredible little 24-hour bakery in Charlotte named Amelie’s that has the most gorgeous assortment of pastries (and other delectables). If you’re ever in town, I can’t recommend it highly enough. In fact, let me know, and I’ll meet you there!