Kisa Whipkey is a freelance editor, a dark fantasy author, a martial arts demo team expert, and a complete sucker for Cadbury Mini-eggs. She's also the Acquisitions & Editorial Director for YA/NA publisher, REUTS Publications. She developed a passion for storytelling at a young age and has pursued that love through animation, writing, video game design, and demo teams, until finally finding her home in editing. She believes in good storytelling, regardless of medium, and applauds anything featuring a snarky lead character, a complicated narrative structure, and brilliant/uncommon analogies. Currently, she lives in the soggy Pacific Northwest with her husband and plethora of electronics.
Her personal blog--featuring sarcastic commentary on all things storytelling--is located at www.kisawhipkey.com. Or connect with her via Twitter: @kisawhipkey. And, of course, to learn more about REUTS Publications, please visit www.reuts.com.
At heart, I am and always will be, a fantasy fan. So for Pit2Pub16, I'd love to find some truly thrilling additions to the genre. My forte is dark fantasy, and I adore anything with a multi-layered, intricate narrative that keeps me on my toes. Adventure and a dash of romance are always a plus, but to wow me, I'll need stellar world-building, fresh twists on the standard tropes, beautifully crafted language, and characters who grip me emotionally and refuse to let go. I'm willing to work with YA/NA/Adult and any of the following sub-genres:
- Sword & Sorcery
- Magic Realism
- Fairy Tale/Mythology
- Science Fantasy
Some of my all-time favorite books include Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Fire by Kristin Cashore, The Rose Master by Valentina Cano, Shapechangers by Jennifer Roberson, and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I would love to work on something that has an original fairy-tale feel paired with elements of classic literature like Jane Eyre, or Pride and Prejudice. Diverse cultures and settings are also a plus, as I believe that fantasy--and literature in general--should be infused with more of that.
The short version of this is that I come from a background in film originally, with an emphasis on storyboard/visual narratives. Writing has always been very dear to me though, and over the years, I kept returning to it. Editing was a more recent development, as I found that my "director's eye" for cinematography and Storyboard Artist's ability to see the narrative structure put me in a unique position to assist authors. Like all editors, I'm a fan of grammar and the beauty and power of language, but I think my true strength lies in being able to diagnose and fix problems of the developmental sort. Those are the puzzles I enjoy most, and I thrive under their challenge.
I view every project I work on as a major editing accomplishment, because each is dear to me. There's nothing I enjoy more than helping an author achieve their vision for a project's full potential. But I suppose, if you're looking for more specific examples, I would say that becoming the Acquisitions and Editorial Director of a fantastic small press has been one of the more significant accomplishments in my personal journey. Through that position, I've had the honor of working with debut and seasoned authors alike, and have gone on to forge what I hope are lasting relationships with many industry professionals.
I believe that every story has merit, and that every story can be saved with enough elbow grease and willingness to work. So I look for potential, not polish. I also believe that it's my job as an editor to help the author make their book the best it can be. It's my job to guide them, to listen and offer compassionate, specific solutions that help them achieve their goals for the piece. My goal when I approach any project is to provide as much, or as little, input as the author wishes, and above all, to preserve the integrity of both their story and their voice by not imposing my own preferences on top of theirs.
I enjoy working with all types. Complicated narrative structures excite me, as I enjoy the mental challenge of untangling a narrative that has twisted itself into knots, but really, I just enjoy the process. Hearing the excitement when an author sees their work taking the shape they'd always hoped for it is probably one of the more satisfying parts of the job.
Aside from the usual grammar faux pas? A lack of emotional resonance and deep POV, as well as issues with pacing and narrative arc are all common things I run into. But probably the most prevalent is a lack of observable details--those little things (body language, gestures, facial expressions, etc) that happen around the dialogue, most notably.
Before or after they've started working with an editor? I suppose, in either regard, I'd have to say that many fail to realize how long the revision process actually takes, or just how grueling it can be. It's far more analytical and repetitive than the act of creating, and I feel like a lot of people lose steam on a project when they start wading into the less fun fields of editing. Revision can be a lot like buying a house--sometimes your manuscript will be move-in ready and all it needs are just some minor cosmetic touch-ups; other times, you might have to completely gut the entire thing and remodel the heck out of it. And sometimes, it's somewhere in the middle, with only a few scene-rooms needing to be overhauled.
Learn and understand the various narrative structures (especially the traditional 3 Act Structure) and how those can be used to elicit emotional resonance in a reader. All storytelling, regardless of medium, has a rhythm, not unlike a heartbeat, and every up-beat has to have a matching down-beat. Understanding this will often help an author alleviate the aforementioned pacing and narrative arcs issues I listed above.
I think that it's more of a trifecta than a single important thing to consider. My recommendation to those seeking a freelance editor is to look for personality + skill/experience + affordability/time. Ideally, you want to find someone you click with, who has the type of skills you need (are you looking for developmental, line, proofreading, all three, or something entirely different?) and who fits into your budget and turnaround expectations. Hiring an editor can be a significant investment for an author, so you want to make sure you choose wisely.
Every book will need an editor at some point--even editors need editors! But when it comes to freelance editing, I feel there are only a couple specific scenarios in which an author would want to invest in editing.
1. They're self-publishing.
2. They've been querying and receiving rejections, and would like to find out what's wrong with their manuscript and/or otherwise polish it further.
3. They're stuck and have hit a point where they need outside guidance from a professional to diagnose what their instincts are telling them isn't working.
There's a myth out there that you need to hire a freelance editor prior to querying agents and presses, but that's not true. It can help in some instances, yes, but it's definitely not required. Publishers have editors for a reason, after all.
Honestly? Um, not much. Hanging out around the literary scene is what I do for fun. Other hobbies I used to enjoy that I no longer have a lot of time for include drawing (my fancy art degree has sort of been collecting dust these past several years), playing video games, watching TV (couch-potato for the win!), going to movies or concerts, and going on Poke-walks or Poke-drives with my husband to play Pokemon Go.
My favorite meal . . . that would have to be ramen. No joke. I know that's the cliched college-kid/starving artist diet of choice, but I've always been a fan. Not so much of the classic Cup o'Noodles variety, but the actual thing. One of my saddest days was when the brand of pre-packaged, make-on-the-stove type I'd loved ever since I was kid disappeared abruptly. It was apparently imported direct from Japan, and I suspect the company who made it has since folded. I've been on the hunt for a suitable replacement ever since.