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.
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.
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.
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.
And it's paper, right?
It's on paper, yeah. There you go.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.