Wednesday 24 April 2013

Judy Roth ~ Thoughts on Editing

Hello Anna and thank you so much for having me. I know your guests are primarily authors, but I thought it might be kind of fun to hear a little about how one goes from author to editor and what the day in the life of a freelance editor is like.

Excellent, and welcome. How did you get started writing and editing? 
When my youngest son was five and ready for kindergarten, I came out of the early-years-fog and wondered what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I knew I no longer wanted to pursue my original path as a counselor and social worker but that was about all I knew. I started to think about what I enjoyed doing and what came easily to me in school and the answer was writing. To that end I took every class, joined every writing and critique group, and did my best to hone my craft. Then somewhere along the line a funny thing happened, I started getting favorable feedback on my critiques. Giving that a little thought, I realized as much as I enjoyed writing and creating my own worlds, what I really liked was helping others find their voice. From there I spent a few years interning for publishing houses in and around New York City and offered myself up as a mentor with my local RWA chapter, judged every contest I could find, beta read for anyone asking and in return asked only for a critique of my critique. I learned a lot and continue to. Writers are amazing people.

Interesting the unexpected twists and turns life can take, isn't it! What is your typical day like?
One of the wonderful things about being self-employed, at least for me, is there isn't really a typical day. Having said that, here is what needs to be accomplished each day and roughly how it gets accomplished (or doesn't . I’m up at 5 a.m. and at my desk as soon as coffee is made. While the caffeine does its thing, I go through emails and do my best to respond to everything I can. Then I play a game of solitaire, maybe two. From then on I spend six to eight hours editing and try to devote at least two hours to personal writing projects and a little marketing. At some point in there, exercise takes place every day for at least an hour and a half, errands are run, laundry is washed, and dinner gets made.

I have often joked I owe my some of my success to Freecell! Great you can limit yourself to two games! What is your next project and when will it be released?
My long time critique partner and multi-published author, RC Bonitz and I have joined forces and we are currently working on two projects. One is a romantic suspense which will be released some time in the future (really, we are working on it) but we got sidetracked by a second top secret non-fiction project. We are planning on a fall release.

Sounds interesting! How does your family feel about your writing career? 
Overall supportive. My husband bought me my first official pads of paper and my first laptop. I mean seriously, pad of paper, what’s that? It definitely shows how long I've been writing and there were a lot of years where I had nothing tangible to show for it. For non-writers, that’s a little hard to understand. And I think my journey into editing just baffled them—like, where did she come up with that? But again, they have been supportive, offering invaluable business and technical help. No one has offered to make dinner. LOL

Shame on them! Are you a plotter or a pantser?
As a writer I’m a pantser all the way, but I have tried very hard as an editor to be a little more organized. I have lists I check off to be sure I’m touching on everything, and I try to have the first round be all about the big picture, the second round a real look at consistency, and have each round after that go to the smaller and smaller picture until, voila, we’re done. In reality, however, once a pantser always a pantser, it’s just how my mind works, and I tend to do a little of everything all at the same time.

I'm a pantser too! What genres are you drawn to as a reader?
Before I began editing I might have been able to answer that question. Now I can’t. To me a good story is a good story. I’m a sucker for terrific characters and I’m willing to go back in time, off into the future, dig into a mystery, hang with the vampires, heat it up, or enjoy a lovely fantasy. As long as the world building is seamless, as long as I can see where I am, I’m all there.

Do you have any words of inspiration for aspiring authors? 
I have lots of words of inspiration, but the bottom line is you gotta want it. I am continually inspired by how committed authors are to their craft. How receptive they are to critiques and how willing to learn. As an author, especially in the beginning, I just thought I was a masochist; turns out I’m not alone. So on to the words of inspiration. If you have a story to tell and you are willing to work hard to tell it well, I believe there is a place for it, that it will find a good home. Especially with the evolving market and the option of self-publishing. You can do it.

I agree. Stay positive. Do you belong to a writing organization? 
Writing can be lonely, and worse, insular. I think writing organizations and critique groups are essential. Do not ask your spouse or sibling or best friend to read a draft—ask another writer. How do you find other writers? Well, the local coffee shop is one place to look but a better place might be writing organizations. I belong to RWA and one of the Connecticut chapters, CTRWA. The authors I've met through this group have been invaluable to me as a writer and editor, but more importantly, they are incredibly generous with their time and knowledge and quite frankly just brilliant and fun people.

What are you reading now? 
One of the really cool perks of being an editor is I get to read all day long! I do try to read for fun at night a little, and I am currently enjoying Kristan Higgins’ new book, The Best Man. She writes laugh-out-loud small town contemporary romantic comedies. I have also found a huge appreciation for audiobooks. They are perfect for a walk or run and because the listening is a different experience from the reading it’s a total treat. I’m currently listening to Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey by Alison Weir. It’s an insightful and fun Tudor era historical.

I'll check those out. What happens when you and an author disagree on a suggested change?
That depends on whether I’m working on the ms for a publishing house or I’m working with an author independently. In both cases, I feel like it’s my job to help the author’s voice be heard, and to that end, if we are not seeing eye to eye I try rewording my suggestion to see if I am not being clear. But ultimately, it’s the author’s name on the cover and it’s her story. So to me, there is no agreeing or disagreeing. It’s about getting the story to where the author wants it. The only time I ever have to put my foot down is if a publishing house has a specific guideline.

Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts with us, Judy. Where can you be found?
At my desk, but if you aren't in the neighborhood I can be found at my website: Or I can be reached at my email address judy dot b dot roth at gmail dot com.

Thank you so much Anna for having me. This has been fun!


  1. Great interview, Judy and Anna. It was nice getting to know you a little better, Judy. Good luck with your writing and editing carreer!

  2. Thanks for the insight Judy! I truly wouldn't be the author I am without the help of my editors. They are amazing!

    1. Hello Melissa,

      I am so glad to hear you have terrific editors! As editors we are privileged to be able to work with our authors and understand there needs to be a level of trust there. I am sure your editors appreciate your vote of confidence!

  3. I think editing has to be the worst job. At it's best, it is still tedious. But every author needs a good editor.

    Thanks, Judy, for stopping by Anna's and for giving us a peek behinds the scenes.

    1. LOL. I know many authors who agree with you. While I love it, I certainly understand there is something to be said for just getting lost in the world one is creating and writing away!
      Thank you for stopping by.