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Editor
Ellen Brock

Ellen is a professional freelance editor with five years of experience. She started editing full time in 2011 and began working shortly after as an editor with Musa Publishing where she was quickly promoted to head editor of Musa’s middle grade imprint. She left Musa in 2012 to freelance full time. Since then she has worked with about 150 writers per year as an editor, writing coach, and plot consultant.

Ellen's clients are represented at a number of agencies, including The Unter Agency, Irene Goodman Literary Agency, and Upstart Crow Literary. Her clients have published with Katherine Tegen Books, The Wild Rose Press, and many have launched successful self-publishing careers. Ellen has a bachelor’s degree in communications with a focus on writing from the University of Cincinnati.

When she's not editing (which isn’t often!) Ellen enjoys cooking and tasting recipes from around the world, trying her hand at a variety of craft projects, and spending time with her husband and my one-year-old poodle Toby.

MOST IMPORTANTLY What kind of entries are you looking for in your Pitch to Publication query box?

I would love to see a novel that mixes darkness with heart. Genre is less important to me than really connecting with the theme or emotion behind the work. 

For adult fiction and YA: I’d love to see a truly chilling horror story, a mainstream or literary novel that deals with a unique perspective (especially mental illness), a thriller or dark mystery with twists and turns I won’t see coming, or scifi or fantasy that has a unique never-seen-it-before premise. 

For middle grade: I’d love to see horror (middle grade horror is so rare!), a funny and heartfelt adventure (fantasy, scifi, or real-world), a realistic story that covers an “issue” well (racism, sexism, self-harm, bullying, etc.), a mystery or thriller with twists and turns even a grown-up could enjoy. 

What is your writing and editing background?

I am a professional freelance editor with five years of experience. I started editing full time in 2011 and began working shortly after as an editor with Musa Publishing where I was quickly promoted to head editor of Musa’s middle grade imprint. I left Musa in 2012 to freelance full time. Since then I have worked with about 150 writers per year as an editor, writing coach, and plot consultant.

What are your major editing accomplishments?

My clients are represented at a number of agencies, including The Unter Agency, Irene Goodman Literary Agency, and Upstart Crow Literary. My clients have published with Katherine Tegen Books, The Wild Rose Press, and many have launched successful self-publishing careers. I also host Novel Boot Camp, a writing workshop that has a couple hundred participants per year, and I run a fairly successful YouTube channel where I give advice and host novel writing Q&A sessions. 

Do you have a general philosophy for how you approach your editing work?

My edits focus very heavily on technique. I want the writers I work with to understand why I’m suggesting a change so that they can grow in their understanding of what makes a novel work. Sometimes a novel cannot be saved or a writer isn’t able to find an agent, but I want that writer to still take something valuable away from the editing process, something they can apply to their next book. 

What types of books do you enjoy working with?

I enjoy working in all genres, but my MSWL is a pretty good indication of what I most enjoy. The bottom line is that I want to see something new (a new character, a new setting, a new premise) and I want to feel something emotionally. 

What are the most common mistakes you see in new writer's ​work?

The most common mistakes I see are protagonists who run around without clear goals, protagonists who aren’t proactive (the plot happens to them instead of them taking action), and scenes without conflict. Conflict is so important! 

What’s the one thing most novelists don’t understand about the art of revision?

Revision often means rethinking big aspects of your work, not just the little things like word choices and sentence structure. The most important revisions happen long before line editing. I see too many writers labor over word choices when the basic framework isn’t in place yet. 

What’s one easy thing every writer can do right now to make themselves a better writer?

Learn the difference between conflict and a negative event. Conflict only occurs when an obstacle stands in the way of what a character wants. A bee sting is a negative event, but it isn’t a conflict, a bee sting that prevents the character from making it to her dream audition for the school play is a conflict. Too often I see unpublished novels that are a long series of negative events rather than true conflicts. 

What is the most important consideration in selecting a book editor?

Trust! If you don’t trust that the editor understands your vision, knows what they’re talking about, and has the know-how to whip your story into shape then it will be all too easy to disregard the editor’s suggestions, which won’t get you anywhere. 

Why would a writer need a book editor?

A good editor can help you pinpoint issues that you can’t find or understand on your own. Almost every writer I work with comes to me because they just know something’s wrong with their book but they don’t know what it is. A good editor can also help you to clarify your own vision and can help add and subtract from the novel to create a cohesive whole that tells exactly the story you want to convey to readers. 

What do you do for fun that does not deal with the literary scene?

My husband and I spend a lot of time planning and constructing props for our Halloween display. We go all out with decorating and make our own life-size figures and costumes. I also love watching movies and spending time with my standard poodle Toby. Since I work at home fulltime, Toby is my furry coworker and constant companion. 

Seriously, we need to know your favorite meal and why?

I absolutely love Pad Thai. I love the mix of flavors and textures – the sweet, the spicy, the crunchy peanuts! Yum! 

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