These last couple months, we interviewed several editors on our team, gathering pet peeves and advice that can help writers on their journey, and we’ll continue to feature a different editor on our blog in the upcoming months.
Last week we interviewed Christina Palaia (check it out here), and it’s fascinating to see just how different each editor’s style and approach can be.
Our second interview features Jonathan Starke. Jonathan joined The Artful Editor team in 2013, and has helped numerous authors revise and polish their manuscripts. After receiving a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa, he earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Colorado State University. He continued heading west, with a home base in Oregon, though he has a lived a more nomadic lifestyle these past few years. He’s “harvested seaweed in Ireland, given free hugs in Spain, and flipped pancakes in Denmark.”
Q: What is the most common error you see writers make?
Losing continuity within the characters and plot where the characters are found doing things that don’t make sense for their usual behavior. Or, how the characters have been portrayed, and plot points that are incongruous with the logic of the narrative.
Q: Where do most problems in a book occur?
The mid-to-later points of the book. The opening fifty-plus pages are usually very solid and understood, but after this the narrative typically becomes more complicated and interwoven, leading to potential plot conflicts or unintentional character personality differentiation.
Q: If you could give a two-sentence piece of advice to authors, what would it be?
Know your characters well (and let them lead you). Don’t try too hard to force an idea or narrative—let it come to you. And write what you’re passionate about.
Jonathan capturing the immensity of storytelling in Budapest.
Q: Before sending a manuscript to editors, what should an author do first?
Make sure the lines are clean.
Ask yourself if the characters’ motivations are clear and logical for who they are/what they represent/what they want.
Send the manuscript to several trusted readers for extensive feedback.
Q: What is your editorial process after you receive a manuscript?
It varies based on the project and requests from the author. While editing and reading, I try hard to take on the voice of the writer and particular narrative. And I make an effort to offer feedback at the level of the writer’s ability and what will make sense for their unique form and style while disregarding my own preferences or biases. My goal as an editor is to give the best possible feedback suited to that writer.
Q: What is your favorite word and least favorite word?
I don’t have a favorite word or least favorite word, but I dislike clichés and ever-revolving contemporary buzzwords/phrases.
Q: What book should all writers read?
Whichever book they admire that motivates them to write. On Writing by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott are two classics for writers who are looking to commiserate and feel understood in regard to the writing life and the struggles within.
Coffee in Sarajevo. You really can’t beat this “office.” Where is the coolest place you’ve ever worked?
Q: What book(s) are you reading right now?
The Meadow by James Galvin.
Q: If you could rid the English language of one word and one piece of punctuation, what would they be?
I don’t think I’d want to get rid of any words. Could maybe do without the semicolon.
Q: Finish this sentence: Dear authors…
Write what you love, what you’re passionate about, what moves you. Don’t give up on it when it gets hard. Submit like crazy. Don’t take rejections personally. Just keep writing and submitting. Do it for yourself, because you love it, because it creates a pocket of meaning in your life. Perseverance is key.