Writing & Editing

135. Editing: Flow in Writing, Getting Clients, and Writing Social Media

January 26, 2023 Wayne Jones Episode 135
Writing & Editing
135. Editing: Flow in Writing, Getting Clients, and Writing Social Media
Show Notes Transcript

My guest is Louise Harris, who is an editor and writer based in St. Petersburg, Florida. We focus on her editing work, including  blog posts and press releases, but also have an extended discussion about the importance of flow to the reader.

Hi, I'm Wayne Jones.

Hi, Louise, welcome to the podcast. Hi, Wayne.

Welcome to Writing & Editing.

Before I introduce the guest and topic for this episode, I

It's great to be here.

wanted to tell you one thing and ask you another.

First is that I've now got a standalone

Thank you for that musical introduction.

website for the podcast with all the episodes

That was very nice.

there and extra information as well.

Check it out at WritingEditing.ca.

You've had a very varied career and I think

Second is a request. If you haven't already,

I'd really appreciate it if you'd give me

about 30 years of it was is in editing,

or still is, I mean, in editing.

a rating or review on Apple podcasts.

But you've done journalism and

I specify Apple because it's kind of become the

you've written books as well.

And I wonder if just to start off, you could

de facto site where ratings and reviews are accessed

give listeners an idea of what you've done in editing,

by others who want to find out about whether

a podcast is any good or not.

what you've done in journalism, and your books as well.

Anyway, that's it for the announcements.

Okay, absolutely.

On with the show.

This is episode 135, Editing: Flow in Writing,

Well, I always knew that I wanted to be a writer.

I published, I was paid, so I was a

Getting Clients, and Writing Social Media.

published author at age twelve for my first poem.

My guest is Louise Harris, who is

And so in high school, I was on the newspaper and I

an editor and writer based in St.

Petersburg, Florida.

We focus on her editing work, including blog posts

was in the yearbook because I knew I was going to go

and press releases, but also have an extended discussion

into journalism because I knew that I wanted to write.

about the importance of flow to the reader.

So I went to the University

of Maryland College of Journalism.

And when I graduated, I actually

became an editor for wire service.

So I have been an editor since I graduated college.

And I chose print over broadcast because I had a

very bad experience at Channel Six in Philadelphia for TV.

So I went into print.

And then a couple of years after I got married,

I was unemployed and I was looking for a job.

And back then this is early 90s, they didn't

have Internet, so you couldn't search for a job.

I went to the University of Maryland Job Board, and

on it was someone looking for an assistant editor, but

she was actually looking for a freelance assistant editor.

So that's actually how I started my business.

But I was still going full time and

doing my business at the same time.

So for her it was a

newsletter in the environmental space.

So I was editing her newsletter and then from her,

she introduced me to other people who were in the

environment space and I was editing their newsletters.

So I went from wire service to newsletters.

Then I was doing blogs and my business

just kind of evolved as technology evolved. Right.

So that is why I have

pretty much experience in doing everything.

And I also worked for, when I was

in Baltimore, a small publisher, and I was

the managing editor for the small publisher.

So that's how I got into book publishing.

So I am very variated in my editing skills.

Yeah, that is and eventually, of course, you also

have personal clients now as well, too, right?

You're a freelance editor.

My husband actually moved.

He was having issues getting well, it's a long story,

but we had him moved to Arizona when he was

working at NASA and the Columbia blew up and the

first job he could get was in Mesa, Arizona.

So we moved to Gilbert, Arizona,

which is a suburb of Phoenix.

And at that time I was

working full time and Freelancing.

But I switched to Freelancing because it was easier

to move across the country if I was freelancing

as opposed to having a full time job.

So it is very advantageous to be a

writer editor because I could work from anywhere.

So whenever my husband moved, I moved with him and

that's pretty much when I started full time freelancing was

during our Arizona, when we moved to Arizona.

So that's kind of when my business flipped.

And so, yes, I do have personal clients now.

But yeah, and speaking of your business, that

was one of the things that I noticed

when I was looking at your website.

It's not that it's unique, but what I really

noticed because I've looked at lots and lots of

editors websites, and generally speaking, what you will see

is kind of a focus on books.

And they might be talking about, oh, I

do nonfiction rather than fiction, or I'm a

Ya specialist, or I specialize in genre stuff

like mystery and fantasy and stuff like that.

But when you go to your website, you've got a

long list of things that are I think books are

listed there, but the list also includes things like email

blasts and social media posts and postcards and all that

stuff back to my experience starting in newsletters.

But I also have found with a lot of

authors, they don't know how to market their books.

So once they get to that phase where it's published, then

they come to me for the marketing advice as well.

So that's why a lot of that stuff is

on there, because I provide the email blast for

them and the social media, as I mentioned earlier,

as technology evolved, so did my business.

So I have experience in newsletters, I have

experience in blogs, and I have experienced in it.

So why not put that on there and make money from it?

Yeah, no, it's something because I think it's either that a

lot of veterans don't think of doing that and so clients

will never find it as something that who's going to do

it for them or they do it themselves.

And of course, a lot of people think, oh,

I can write this, but not necessarily right.

And an editor and I'm not just promoting our

profession here, but a professional editor looking at what

you've written is a real necessity, especially if you're

imagining someone wanting to promote their own book.

That has to be a good piece of writing.

That was really noticeable.

And what I wondered is, I'm not asking for a percentage,

but let's how often do I do one or the other?

Yeah, what portion of I provide all those services?

But pretty much people come to

me for three specific services and

that's press releases, blogs, and manuscripts.

But when they do need those other services,

I have the capability to provide it.

But those are very small amounts of how I do my work.

And the manuscripts probably take up the most

of my time and press releases because I

can crank them out so quickly.

I do a lot of those, but for the

most part, the email blasts and the newsletters and

the social media, I do them when people ask

me, but they're not really a high priority.

I don't really focus on them.

Well, that narrows it down.

And when you say the blogs, do

you mean writing posts or editing posts?

I do both.

There were several companies who come to me.

They have their own blog and they

just need me to publish it.

And then there are companies that don't want to write

it at all, so then I write it for them. Right.

They would give you the topic or

the outline or something like that? Yeah.


I'm sorry.

It's like you're in the middle of the Indianapolis 500.

I'm really not, actually.

Down the street is a village green for older

people 55 and older, and then it gets in.

So really, I don't know why we have motorcycles.

Oh, it's motorcycles. I see. Okay. That's what it is.


As long as it's not the apocalypse and

it's a monster of some kind, that's okay.

We'll continue with the interview.

I'm sorry that you'll have to

do all that editing later.

No, actually, I make it a point of pride that

I don't do that editing for that kind of reason.

Like the take of things like that.

I do a single take usually.

And so when we hear this, you

will hear those motorcycles, no problem.

Would you like me to close my windows?

No, all is good. Don't worry about it. It's all good.

I can hear you. Great.

I wanted to ask also, since you have partly

because you've been talking about the Internet, and partly

you've been talking about that as being a portion

of your work, have you done, like, a detailed

SEO strategy to get new clients, or do you

just get returned clients or what?

Because I've written a lot

for other companies about SEO.

I do understand SEO.

So I had my website redesign last year, I

think, and I specifically asked the company to make

sure it was optimized for search engines.

But that really is as far as I go on my SEO.

I do periodically update my website with a blog, and

I'm more frequent with updating it with video content.

But because I'm doing all this work for other people,

I don't really have time to do it for myself.

So it kind of gets pushed off to the burner.

Now, as far as marketing myself,

I do that in different ways.

I go to events and I get a lot of

book clients through events because I hand out a postcard

that says, do you want a professional writer?

And that usually gets me a lot of business that way.

And also there are a lot of first time authors

who are looking for editors at those type of events.

And instead all they see are other book authors.

And then I show up and I'm

an editor, so then they get excited. Right.

I do a lot of events and I

do things like this, interviews with you.

And that also helps get me a lot of business.

But believe it or not, that postcard I was talking

about, I have gotten more business off that postcard.

And it was an $80 investment.

Imagine that.

And it's paper, right?

It's on paper, yeah. There you go.

That's crazy.

Who knew that the postcard was the

best SEO investment you could make?

It really is.

But mostly I tell my clients that they should

be in as many different avenues as possible, and

I try to live that same philosophy.

So I do social media and I do have an Internet

presence, and I do a blog and I do videos and

I go to events and I have my printed materials.

That's pretty much how I get my business.

But I think that's a lot. I know.

Again, not that I've seen every single website, but a

lot of editors, if you don't have a website, I

don't think you have any kind of credibility at all.

Everyone has a website, but not a lot.

There's a real variance in how much people

just put it there with their rates and

what I do and that sort of thing.

But there's a lot of variation in whether

people add a video or have a blog

or have a podcast or have a whatever.

There's a huge amount of area from zero to 100. Right.

I do know what you're talking about.

I've seen those from those that are 100% on

the extreme good end and 100% on the extreme.

I'm not giving out any information.

Right, right.

I've also seen ones, you know, that

they don't use editing lingo that

a client is not going to understand.

And I always feel sorry for those because you have

to write it for someone who doesn't know anything about

editing and tell them about it or at least define

your terminology they teach you in journalism school.

Do not use jargon.

Do not use acronyms.

Do not use anything that will confuse your reader.

No clear, simple, lean.

That's a good practice.

And the other thing I want to ask you, and I'm

not sure if I've ever asked any, I've interviewed several editors

on this podcast, but in all the stuff that you do,

what are the kinds of in people's writing?

What are the kinds of mistakes or

bad tendencies that you frequently see?

Well, the biggest one that I see is flow.

Is what? Flow.

Flow is supposed to flow like a river from

chapter to chapter till you get to the end. Right.

A lot of times, especially with the nonfiction

books that I edit, there's no flow.

And I have to explain to them

why they need to have that flow.

A second thing that always comes up is Microsoft

spell checker says something is spelled correctly and it's

actually misspelled because the person who programmed the spell

checker didn't know how to spell it.

So then I have to explain to them

why I'm correct and the computer is incorrect.

But I think the authors also make assumptions that

readers are going to know things when they don't.

And I have to take them back a step and say, okay,

I don't think your readers got to think this is a person

who has not had any experience with this topic at all, and

they're not going to know what you're talking about.

And that goes back to the jargon issue because just

like writers, anybody else will have a jargon in their

industry and they tend to use their jargon.

And I think the biggest one that I come across a

lot is authors who don't want me to cut something.

I don't think it's necessary and it slows down

the story or it slows down the topic and

they don't want me to cut it because it's

their baby and words matter to them.

So I think that's the area I

have the hardest time with authors.

That's interesting.

I bet you know it, but please say it.

Please say the phrase for what

editors use for that tendency.

You already mentioned the word babies, but do you

know know what the phrase is?

Throw the baby out with the bathwater.

No, it's kill your babies.

And the idea has nothing to do with abortion.

It has to do with exactly.

People get attached.

A writer gets attached to a certain paragraph or a

chapter for whatever reason, and yeah, they resist cutting it

because it took a lot of time or whatever.

But you as an editor can objectively see that it

doesn't fit, it's poorly written or whatever it might be.

You have to kill that baby.

It's a very gruesome term, but

that's the term that writers use.

You have to kill your baby.

I have heard that.

After you said it, I have heard it, yeah.

That's interesting.

I've had that with some of the clients I've

worked with where I've had to have not a

disagreement in a negative sense, but you have a

different view of something than they do.

And of course it's always their call in the end.

And if I think it's important enough,

I will reiterate my objection to it.

But in the end, I'm not going to argue about it,

the kind of thing it's their call, but I will alert

them that in my professional opinion, it shouldn't be there or

it should be changed or whatever the matter might be.

Yes, and I have that experience, too, and

in most cases they cede to my expertise,

but once in a while they're just emphatic.

And I'm like you, I just give it to them.

I'm like, okay, but just remember, this is

my reputation as an editor, too, right?

Obviously you can't go to their Word

document at their place and fix it.

I mean, you've done what you can.

You've done your professional duty.

And the other thing I want to ask and say, say and

ask about flow is that I always feel that that applies

you were saying it from chapter to chapter, but another thing

is that it also applies from paragraph to paragraph.

Yes, paragraph to paragraph.

Not all writers have that either.

No, they don't.

And that is the reason that every

book should have a professional editor.

Because just because you write something doesn't

mean it's going to flow well.

And a professional editor, like you said, is objective

so that editor can see whether it's going to

flow or not and make it work.

One of the books I'm working on now is he

is an expert on back pain and back surgeries.

And he wanted to put in a chapter on martial

arts, which I didn't have a problem with because there's

a lot of martial arts that help relieve back pain.

But I was trying to connect it to all the stuff

that came before and he didn't want me to connect it.

And I kept saying, well, it's got a

flow, you got to have a connection.

And we finally came up with a way to make it work.

But he was dead set against he wanted it just this way.

And I was like, no, that's not going to work.

But he finally listen to me.

That's an example.

I want them flowing.

Yeah, it's interesting.

It's really interesting to see that because what you

don't want is the reader just in flow in

general, you don't want the reader sort of coming

up against a wall like that where they're stopped

somehow and that's not good or it's so jarring.

They think, Why is this here?

This shouldn't be here.

Just like that.

That shouldn't have been there.

My phones are really giving you

all is good, no problem.

I hope that's the worst thing that happens to me today.

I'll be pretty well off, but sorry, continue.

That's for sure.

Continue your thought, though, about

the reader coming up ...

You were talking about flow.

When the reader when I read a story, and this actually

goes to how I edit, I always print it out first

and read through it before I actually start editing because that

gives me a sense of how it's going to fit together.

And also when you print it and read it

on paper, this goes to my background in print.

You catch more mistakes that way, too.

When I read something and it stops me as

a reader, then I question, why is that there?

And then I suggest to the author, well, this isn't working and

it may not fit for what you want it to do.

What your point is.

So that's how I usually get into the

flow topic is because I've read it and

it won't sound right when I'm reading it.


No, I consider that to be I'm glad you mentioned

that, because I consider flow overall to be very important

because you can have all the facts right.

And everything.

And one would whether it's back pain or

World War II or whatever it might be.

But the structure and the order are very important

for the message, so to speak, to get across. Right.


I was talking mostly about nonfiction because I

do a lot more nonfiction than I do

fiction, but I do edit fiction as well.

And the same issue comes up

whether it's fiction or nonfiction. Totally.

So you still have to make sure everything goes from

one point to the next point without jarring the reader.

Because you're right, if the reader is stopped in any

way, they're not going to pick up that book again.

That's it.

You have one shot at it.

Yeah, that's exactly right.

They might give you the first jarring bit,

but once they get a second one, they'll

be moving on to another book. Right.

Anyway, this has been really fascinating, educational.

A little noisy at times, but really good.

Thanks very much for coming on.

I appreciate you inviting me, and

I really had a good time.

Can I provide my website information,

or do you do that afterwards?

Know, for listeners out there in the

show notes, I'll put links to louise

didn't mention also that she writes books.

I'll put links to that to

the editing and everything there.

So please have a look there in the show notes. Okay.

Thank you. Thanks, Louise. All right.

Have a good day. You too. Bye.