PODCAST – Kirsty Ogden
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DYAN: Today, I have Kirsty Ogden with me in our ‘Bringing Our Books to You’ series. Kirsty, how are you today?
KIRSTY: Thanks Dyan. I’m very well.
DYAN: We’re going to start off talking about your creative process and what tools you use, where do you work and the hours that you try to fit into your day to get the work done that you need to get done.
KIRSTY: Sounds good. [SMILES]
DYAN: So tell us a little bit about that process?
KIRSTY: Well, I’m an editor and a graphic designer and what I specialise in is helping people to self-publish their book. Basically what this entails is helping to project manage the publication process for them. People often feel quite daunted about all of the steps involved in publishing a book. They’ve spent a lot of time writing their manuscript. They have their completed Word document and what do they do then? They’ve put a lot of effort into getting their words right; they’ve got all their creative ideas down on the page and the next step seems really overwhelming. So what I do is guide them through the publishing process by trying to make it as streamline as possible for them. I’ve actually developed a system that I call the Five Cs of Self-Publishing which breaks the process down into a set of simple, easy-to-understand steps. The first step always involves editing and that in itself can be quite complex. People often don’t realise that editing isn’t just about grammar –punctuation and spelling. That’s usually what we are referring to when we think of editing. But the structural editing – which is looking at the broad brushstrokes of the manuscript – is a big aspect of it. Copy editing is the process that people are commonly aware of. And then proofreading is more about quality control. So, all of those editing steps are part of the first stage of publishing a book. Then you get into the typesetting phase and what’s involved in that. There’s a lot of skill associated with typesetting a book. It’s quite different from just printing a Word document. So there is a lot of design knowledge actually involved with how the words appear on a page. Even if your book is just text – for example if you’ve written a fiction book – there’s still design principles associated with it. And then obviously the book cover design and choosing a theme for it that encapsulates what the whole book is about is the final stage.
DYAN: I think with that, there is . . . in that stage, as you said, you’ve got the Word document and you go through, the author and yourself work really hard getting that flowing and working well. One of the things I think, with independent or self-publishing, is that people don’t necessarily understand the complexity of moving from the Word document to the typesetting, because sometimes what worked ok and looked good or worked in a Word document, when you move it into that typeset graphic design stage, all of a sudden you’ve got issues with how those paragraphs sit on the page or don’t have enough words or have too little words. Sometimes . . . I guess I found this personally, I’ve needed to go back and either add more text or remove some text in order to keep the document and the end result looking to how you want it to look.
KIRSTY: Yes absolutely. We call that copy fitting – where you are working with the available space. People don’t actually realise that in typesetting, even the way that you structure certain elements like the chapter headings, the subheadings, the sub subheadings, they’re all navigational tools that you’re using in order to make the text more accessible to the reader. They’re little subconscious cues for your audience. So the way that you set those up is also really important to the overall design of the book. The whole point for an editor or a graphic designer is to make the text accessible for readers. So the easier you make the final book in terms of the structure, how well written it is, and also in terms of the design, the easier it is for readers to comprehend and therefore the more likely it is that they’re going to enjoy reading your book and think that it’s well written. So, the more you pay attention to those sorts of details, the better the end result will be and the higher quality the publication will be that you’re producing.
DYAN: As you said, it’s something where . . . that step from the manuscript to those next couple of stages: the editing and the design, someone like yourself, it is really important to have a good relationship with your designer, so that you’re both coming from the same place, with respect to the message that’s trying to be delivered by the manuscript. Because, as you said, those things, like how the title and the subheadings sit really do affect the message of the book and the end result that that is going to be for the author. It can, change the whole direction of how the book looks and feels, if those items aren’t correctly understood by the designer. Just in listening to you, you being part of that process of editing as well as into the design, it gives you such deep insight into the author’s thoughts and feelings, which I think helps develop that design. I don’t know. Do you find it makes it easier for you being involved in that editing and then moving into the design stage? It makes it easy for you, because you’ve already put your heart and soul into it in the first stage and the second stage sort of falls into place?
KIRSTY: Yes, I do think it’s easier. Obviously, it’s often the case that you will have a separate editor, a separate typesetter, a separate cover designer. But that then requires each person to be briefed or briefing the next person in the chain. So the fact that I can do a lot of the process myself – a one stop shop sort of approach – means that obviously I don’t need to brief myself. But also I say to my clients, it often acts as another level of quality control because I’ll pick things up like spelling mistakes or typos in the typesetting stage that I might have missed during the editing phase. I’ll bring that extra level of control into the book at that stage. It’s as if I’m trying to get inside the author’s head. Many editors say that we make the text say what the author meant it to say. You (the author) meant to say something but because of your lack of finesse with the language, it hasn’t come out in the way that you quite intended it to. Editors can often highlight that and bring clarity to the text. We always respect the author’s voice. After all, it’s their book, not ours. But we can enhance the message so it flows more clearly. So the narrative flow is more cohesive and it all fits together in a well-structured way.
DYAN: Yes. As you said, some people aren’t very good at taking photos or some people aren’t very good at drawing. It’s not that people don’t want to express themselves well. It’s just for whatever reason, they haven’t developed the skill to express themselves as well as some other people. So why not take the opportunity to leverage from other people, like yourself, to get your word out in a much clearer way, so that there’s no confusion about the message that you are trying to send. Because, ultimately the voice that you want is the author’s voice and you are simply helping to streamline it, so it is clearer for everyone else to read. As you say, language . . . you don’t even realise how innate certain phrases and ways of writing have been culture for a long time. If you don’t understand some of the technical aspects of that, you can miss it and then misdeliver your message. People like yourself come in and can help redirect that, get it back on the straight and narrow, and make sure that that message is clear, because ultimately that’s what the purpose of writing the book is, to have a clear message. So it’s good to have some guidance.
KIRSTY: As editors, we often refer to ourselves as being the midwives in the book publishing process in the sense that we help authors give birth to their books (or their ‘babies’). Obviously, in the situation where you are actually having a baby, you want to surround yourself with people you trust. You rely on the midwives. But, at the end of the day, the child is yours. Yet you’re very grateful for the midwives’ help because at the time you don’t know what to do, particularly if you’re a new mother. It’s kind of scary and to have people who know what’s involved and have trodden the path before you is very reassuring. So that’s how editors can help authors – particularly new authors – to navigate unchartered waters.
DYAN: Yes. The other thing is, why should you have to be an expert if you’re not necessarily going to be doing this every day of the week. So I think that that’s an important aspect to remember as well. As you said, midwifery, you’re not going to deliver babies every day of the week. So you don’t need to be an expert in it. You’re going to do it a couple of times, if at all. So again, with book writing, even if you write ten or twenty books over a lifetime, again, the editing process – obviously, you’re going to get better if you’re writing more and more – but in those early stages, it’s important to know some things, but you don’t need to be an expert and start getting caught up in that, because I think that can then block some of your ability to get your thoughts on paper, because then you start worrying about the technical aspects. But if you know that you’ve got someone else who can tidy that up for you, then the technical aspects become less of a worry and you can focus more on what’s the message I’m trying to deliver here.
KIRSTY: Absolutely. Self-publishing doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to do everything by yourself. I mean of course you can and that’s very liberating too. Unlike the old days of traditional publishing where they were the gatekeepers. You went cap in hand to them to request, ‘Please publish my manuscript’, and they got to have the final say. Now, it’s very empowering to be able to self-publish your book and to know that you can do it all yourself. But as you’re saying, there are people who do have expertise. If you’re going to try and do everything, it’s going to slow you down. The end result probably won’t be as good. Why not, as an author, just focus on your writing? Do what you’re good at and let other people who’ve got expertise in other areas help you out.
DYAN: Yes. I think that’s one of the conversations I’ve been having with others in the industry that more and more now . . . I think that’s why people are starting to call it independent publishing. As you said, self-publishing suggests that you’re a silo, by yourself. However, independent publishing gives you that opportunity to speak to people as a family, as people who want to support you and want to help you out. Knowing that as well can be a huge relief, because sometimes you can think ‘Oh, why did I do this? Why did I do this to myself?’
KIRSTY: Yes. It’s quite a steep learning curve. There’s quite a lot involved in self publishing. It’s fairly early days and it’s changing very rapidly. The fact that digital printing has improved exponentially over the last ten years has dramatically altered the publishing landscape. But it’s like a moving target at the moment and it’s hard to keep up with all of the changes.
DYAN: Yes. I think ultimately that the place that I can see a lot of the things that are happening is, making it accessible to anyone, no matter what their means or ability. That to me, really makes me feel excited about what this means for the future, about who, in the past, would not have had the opportunity, the time, the resources to publish a story or to put a manuscript together. The doors are being opened more and more regularly to anybody and everybody, which obviously is two-sided. You’ve got some people that are putting out garbage, and you think ‘Oh my goodness, how on earth did they even let that through the gatekeeper?’ But at the same time, I think that you have to that. Most of the information, and most of the manuscripts that are coming out are great. There are the few books that come through by people who are doing these digitised manuscripts that are just about keywords and stuff, you just think ‘Ah, that’s just dreadful’.
KIRSTY: But I think that’s also evolving. I mean readers aren’t stupid. People want to read good quality books. So it sort of self-regulates over time anyway. The higher quality material is the stuff that people enjoy reading. It gets shared and those authors tend to rise to the top over time.
DYAN: Yes, that’s exactly right. I think that comes to being patient with–if you’ve written something of quality–it will happen eventually. There is a time period that you will need to wait before you see that success come through. That can be frustrating as well.
KIRSTY: Obviously, social media is such a boon in terms of people being able to get their message out to an audience in such an egalitarian way. Not having to pay for advertising because it’s available to everyone. But it tends to becomes quite noisy. But, as I was saying before, eventually the good material does get shared and the other stuff tends to fade away.
DYAN: Yes. Tell me a bit about how you started or how you moved into the independent publishing with the editing and the design processes.
KIRSTY: Well, I’ve always loved books. I was the ultimate bookworm as a kid. I ended up having a career in librarianship, which was great, because at that time, it was very much about books. But I’d got to the point where I felt as though I’d ‘been there, done that’. Also I was finding that librarianship was becoming more about computer research and databases. I must admit I’ve always love physical books. I obviously recognise that eBooks are a very convenient, cheap resource. But I’ve always been a lover of print. I’d always been interested in design so, as a mature age student, I studied for a degree in graphic design. It had been an unfulfilled dream of mine for a long time. But as a young person, I’d always thought: I can’t draw so I can’t be a designer. But that is a definite advantage of technology. These days you don’t actually need to be able to draw to be able to design. Once I’d finished my degree, I was hoping to get a job in the graphic design field but I found it very difficult. It’s very much a young persons’ industry. People who were employing graduate graphic designers are looking for ‘young and cool’, and I wasn’t that. So after a frustrating time during which I worked in marketing for a while but felt that I wasn’t a good fit, I did a post graduate certificate in editing. Somehow, it all came together for me at that point. The fact that I love books, my design skills and knowledge and then adding in editing on top of it, which was sort of a natural fit for me, though I hadn’t ever actually realised it. It’s funny that often the things that seem obvious to you later are the ones that you can’t even see initially. In many ways, I’m more a natural editor than I am a designer, as much as I love working in design. I took it for granted and didn’t realise that everyone couldn’t do it. When I became an editor, it was like ‘Oh, this is a skill that I have that not everybody else can do’, which is kind of cool to realise as an older person. With that combination of books, graphic design and editing, I felt as though I’d finally discovered what I wanted to be when I grew up.
DYAN: Isn’t that funny? What do you want to be when you grow up?
KIRSTY: Yes. I can see it looking back in retrospect, but I couldn’t have predicted it. I always considered publishing was a cool thing to be involved in. But it was always a bit of a secret society too. The fact that self-publishing has changed the publishing landscape so significantly, I think is fantastic because of the opportunities it obviously provides to authors, but also to people with my sort of skill set.
DYAN: As you’ve mentioned there, don’t stop, keep trying, keep looking, and being uncomfortable in an environment is actually not a bad thing, in the sense that it will push you to think and reconsider and keep trying, and then you’ll actually eventually end up in the place where you need to be.
KIRSTY: Absolutely. At the time, I can remember thinking: Why can’t I get a job in graphic design? I love design. I do. And it’s still very much a part of who I am as well. But I’ve definitely moved away from the logo marketing brochure style of graphic design into what is a more specialised area of design, in terms of typesetting and cover design. Book cover design is obviously more of a creative thing, but typesetting I really enjoy doing – having that sort of attention to words from a design aspect as well as from the technical aspect of language.
DYAN: Yes. As you mentioned, having the skills on both sides, it just fits together.
KIRSTY: Yes, it’s a good fit for me.
DYAN: And being patient with finding that role can be frustrating. But then when you get there, you think ‘Oh yeah, why didn’t I see this from the outset?’ But it’s funny you saying that, because I think at the same time you probably needed to have the false starts to get to the point to then go ‘Oh, this is where I should be’.
KIRSTY: Absolutely, yes. When you look back, you can see ‘Oh this is where I was meant to be’. But sometimes you just can’t see it at the outset.
DYAN: Eventually. Now you’ve already mentioned some of the aspects of the work that you do love, which was the typesetting and the editing, did come naturally to you. Let’s talk about some of the least favourite aspects of your job, the things that sometimes drive you a little nuts. I guess that’s part of being in business is understanding that there is some stuff that makes you jump out of bed at morning and want to get to the computer and work on the next assignment. There are also parts in running a business that really are quite stressful and making sure that you put those components of that stress into a compartment to say ‘Hey, that’s just part of doing business. I don’t like that. I have to do it. But it’s part of making sure that the business continues to run and understanding that and moving forward with it’.
KIRSTY: Yes, definitely numbers are not my thing. I’m fortunate to be married to a bookkeeper so that’s a blessing. Words and pictures are what I’m all about and I do struggle with numbers. Having to consider the figures and the bookkeeping aspects of my business are things that I don’t relish.
DYAN: No, no. You also talked, at the beginning, about the authors that come to you with the manuscripts and think ‘Oh, what’s the next step?’. Similarly for yourself. Everyone has an area that they know is not a skill. I’d like to say it’s not a failing or it’s not that you’re not good at things. It’s just that you just don’t have a skill in that area. Knowing that and finding someone who can support you or leverage you is really important in business. As you said, going back to the authors, allowing them to know we’re not trying to fundamentally change anything about what they’re doing and what they’re trying to achieve. This is process to help you out, so that you get the best result. As you said, you spending time stressing about what numbers and balance sheet and what returns you have to do, by what date, takes away from your business. You don’t want that. You need to make sure that, yes, it needs to happen because it is a legal requirement. You can’t avoid it, but how can you manage it so that it’s not a stress and so that you can understand. You need to have a minimum understanding of some of this stuff, because obviously when you go to quote, you’ve got to have a level of understanding of what actually makes a profit. Otherwise you don’t have a business. But not becoming too tied up in some of the tintacks of the accounting side of things. As you said, accounting can become technical very quickly, as with editing. So knowing that you have got someone else looking after you, can take away the stress and the fact that you’re able to identify someone close to you is great. You get a discount I’m sure.
KIRSTY: [LAUGHTER] Yes.
DYAN: Talking about the biggest challenges you face professionally and personally. Professionally, as you say, minimising not getting too involved in the accounting side of things, but also managing workflow and how that fits in for you. You mentioned, before we started the interview, you have a huge influx of work and you need to work really long hours and get the work done, and then all of a sudden, you have a little bit of quiet, the quiet before the storm again. So how does that work for you and what’s been the biggest challenge that you’ve had over the last year?
KIRSTY: Yes. I call it the ‘feast’ and the ‘famine’ syndrome. Obviously, you enjoy the ‘feast’ periods, but, at the same time, it can get a bit overwhelming. But to a certain extent, this is where I’m lucky having graphic design skills. I actually do enjoy working on my business. So I find working on my website or thinking of new ways to market my business can be quite fun actually – an interesting challenge. So I don’t mind the so-called ‘famine’ stage so much now. It gives me an opportunity to get a few projects that I have had to put on the backburner done. But having said that, obviously the first couple of years when you’re starting a business, the majority of your time is spent doing that. So it does become exciting when all of a sudden you’re starting to get an influx of clients. I guess I’m probably not alone in saying that the biggest challenge in business is to keep going. I’ve been fortunate that, I didn’t have to struggle initially for every next dollar, so was able to survive through those leaner years to start with. It’s very gratifying to see your business grow, over time. For me, my business is like my new baby – I enjoy watching it grow. It’s gone through its initial teething stages and it’s becoming more established. It’s exciting to witness.
DYAN: As you say, the different phases that you go through and the relationships that you build as you go through certain phases, and you experience changes and the types of books that you find that you work best with. Have you found that when you first start, you take on whatever you can take on, and now that you’ve got some experience under your belt, you do find you know the particular genres. For example, ‘I know I’m not really hot in that, but hey give me this genre and I know I’m going to whip it out and I’m going to get you a better result’. How has that been for you?
KIRSTY: Yes. I’m fortunate. I have a colleague who I work closely with which I think makes the process a lot more enjoyable for both of us. By its very nature, what I do is quite isolating. I’m at home in front of my computer working from my home office. So I miss the social aspect of being in a workplace. So to have a colleague who I can consult with regularly, I’ve found to be very satisfying professionally. She tends to specialise more in fiction editing, which is not an area I’m as keen on or as skilled in. So we cross refer. She’ll send me clients for the typesetting and design stages of projects that she’s working on, and likewise I’ll refer fiction enquiries to her. That’s been a really enjoyable process too. It’s evolved over time.
DYAN: As you say, that focus is I think . . . media has played on the people in a home office environment, as you know, sitting there with a cup of coffee in the sun, with their laptop out on the back balcony trees and birds in the background. Almost feels like a Disney movie. When it’s not that at all. It is quite isolating and challenging making the decision not to be in an office and understanding, . . as you said, you don’t get that face-to-face discussion. So building a virtual team around you, really does give you the strength to keep going. Knowing, if this is a good decision, because even though I am at home and I am choosing to work this way, it means I can spend more time doing other things that I wouldn’t be able to do if I was in the office. Like commuting for example is one thing I don’t miss . . . [LAUGHTER].
KIRSTY: It’s fabulous. On balance, I like it a lot more. But you do miss out on certain things. I think in the same way that we were saying before, that authors need a team of experts around to ensure that their book is the best it can be, I find if I try to do everything myself, my business suffers because I’m not putting my time to its best use as well. So I’ll call on a web developer or a team of other experts that I can bounce ideas off or get advice from to improve my business.
DYAN: Yes. That moves into the daily routine question. When you do the office routine, you get up, you get in the car, you drive to work, you go to work, you do what you have to do, you get back in the car and you drive home again. Whereas being in a home office environment, your daily routine can be ‘Oh, I’ve got to do these things for myself personally and then I’ve got to do some work’. How do you balance that? Because I know some people I’ve spoken to, they say ‘I know as soon as I walk into my office or as soon as I sit at my desk, I’m at work, and I’m there for whatever time I specify or hours. But I need, other people I’ve spoken to have said ‘I don’t really have an office, I sort of have the kitchen table, so I have to work around the family’. So how does that fit in for you?
KIRSTY: I do have my own space, which is good. Though for a while I did have to work from the kitchen table and I found that very difficult. I must admit having my own space in terms of an office setup is really good. But I do like flexibility. I find particularly with editing, which is very intense work – intense in terms of your concentration – I do need to break it up. I can’t sit and edit all day long. I like to break it up with other activities. So I’ll have breaks during the day where I might slot in doing housework. I do really enjoy the fact that you can have meetings with people or attend appointments if required, and then work on the weekend instead if needs be. For me this works very well. I’m a fairly structured sort of person so I guess I’m lucky in that respect because other people have said to me, ‘Oh, I’d never be able to do it. I’d never be able to discipline myself to work from home’. For them, obviously being in a workplace works really well, whereas I enjoy being my own boss. Having the flexibility to put a load of washing on or get a meal prepared around my working day works very well for me.
DYAN: I think that’s also important. Understanding that you do need those periods. As you say, intense focus, get up, walk away, come back, intense focus, get up, walk away, and that cycle is very important for ensuring that you do produce the best quality. In a work environment, that’s almost a downside because you can’t necessarily set those schedules. Like you might walk into an office, all these people have these open offices at the moment. You put your headset on. You’re constantly disrupted by the phone or someone else walking up or tapping you on the shoulder. The beauty of being at home, knowing that you can say, ‘No, this is my focus period, nobody coming in, the door is closed’. Generally speaking, you do get that in a home office. And then you can still manage, as you said, what’s going on around the house. The unfortunate domestic side of things that we have to do to ensure that our lives run smoothly.
KIRSTY: I actually find it beneficial to break my work day up. I find that I’m more productive with the breaks than if I sit continuously doing the same task. When I find my production levels are going down, it’s better for me to go off and do something that’s not engaging my brain. It’s a break for my brain to be thinking about more mundane things. When I sit back down, I’m a lot more productive than if I was to try and continually sit doing the same task for long periods.
DYAN: Yes. The office environment doesn’t encourage that break, focus, break, focus, because as you said at the office, you’ll just get constant . . . Interruption and sit there for 8 hours and nobody can sustain that. There is all the science behind not being able to work like that and you need to have a break in order to be able to then have good focus. I think the science is something like 20 minutes, then you need to then get up, move around, go and do something. Even from a health perspective, being able to move around rather than sitting down sedentary for hours on end.
KIRSTY: Yes, definitely.
DYAN: Just so many pluses.
KIRSTY: I know that a lot of people find this – and certainly in my own case – it’s when you’re out going for a walk that often creative ideas and thoughts just pop into your head. But if you’re labouring over it, they often elude you. So it involves doing those other things where you’re not necessarily focusing on something you’ll then get some form of creative inspiration.
DYAN: Yes. As you say, it allows your thoughts to flow. Because you’ve set your brain up, you’ve given it the information that it needs, the brain then needs to put it in the subconscious, have a little bit of time to dwell on it, and then pick out the gems, so that when you come back to it, it’s as you say, it clicks If you think too hard on something, your brain starts saying, pfff, I’m just shutting down’. Just stop.
KIRSTY: That’s just waste of time and I like to use my time well. I feel like if I’m not being productive in terms of what I’m doing for my clients, I’m better off to be doing my housework, rather than trying to labour over a task when it’s not flowing well. To me, it’s just a win-win situation to do it that way. It really works well for me.
DYAN: Now the hardest question, a crazy fact about you that epitomises who you are?
KIRSTY: I actually love getting dressed up when I go out. But because I work at home, I can’t usually be bothered to make an effort. I do have a policy that I must get out of my pyjamas or at least wear my daytime pyjamas to work.
DYAN: That’s a good one. So your crazy fact . . .
KIRSTY: I have to get out of my pyjamas each day, but I often end up wearing my ‘daytime pyjamas’.
DYAN: I did write ‘The Three Top tips’ and am interested to know if I accurately captured your thoughts while we were talking. The first one is keeping the author’s voice and the process of editing and the typesetting really is about midwifery and.
KIRSTY: Support is key for me. I’m the sort of person who loves to support other people. I like being supportive and I make a point of focusing on it in my marketing messages. I’m all about support and being supportive.
DYAN: Yes. As you say, it’s understanding that is the role that you’re taking, because I think that some people in the industry have probably been a little bit burnt with respect to their work being a little bit, I’d say, torn apart and not supported.
KIRSTY: And very softly to start with. It’s softly, softly to begin. ‘Is this ok?’ I’m always checking in with my clients. ‘Are you happy with what I’m suggesting for your manuscript?’ I’m all about, ‘We’ll take this gently, we’ll just see how we’re going’, and then by the end of the process, they’re usually saying, ‘Oh yes, You’re my editor, I trust everything you’re telling me about my book’. I’m very much about building that supportive relationship early on in the piece.
DYAN: Yes, understanding that you are there to help them, to ensure their voice is kept that is very important.
KIRSTY: Yes exactly.
DYAN: The second thing, and I think this came out in a couple of places, was to keep trying, to keep pushing, to find your calling and to keep going.
DYAN: Putting another step forward, each time you have a setback or you think you’ve stepped down the wrong way and to continue to put that step forward. You said that allowed you to move into what you’re doing now, which is the editing and the graphic design. . . . [VOICE OVERLAP].
KIRSTY: But also that harks back to the fact that books were my passion from very early on. Now I can see those missteps were actually just part of the journey and how it has all come together at the end. It’s about how they’re all crucial steps, but at the time, I couldn’t see the bigger picture.
DYAN: Yes. That also balance having the feast and famine stage within the business, understanding that when you have ‘downtime’ because you don’t really have downtime that it is an opportunity to keep exploring the creative, and design side in your own business.
KIRSTY: Yes, that’s the time I’m working on my business rather than in it, which actually is really enjoyable anyway.
DYAN: Yes. And again it’s building more skills . . . [VOICE OVERLAP].
KIRSTY: I mean it was a bit of a downer when it was all that . . . [LAUGHTER] but now it’s different.
DYAN: Yes. While you’re doing that, you’re continuing to learn anyway. So you’re still continuing to put your foot forward in the process. Understanding that and learning from those processes and continuing again, as you say, to step forward. The last point or tips, I had Having stages: the focus, break, focus, break, to allow you to have those periods where you’re focused on what you’re doing, step away from it, let your brain toss it around for a little bit, and then coming back and having that focus . . .
KIRSTY: I think that is so important. It’s a thing that’s actually quite challenging to get that across to clients, because the first question I get is ‘How much’, and the second question is, ‘How long?’ Publishing a book is a very time consuming process, which people realise at the end and they’re grateful for my help. They say to me, ‘Oh wow! I didn’t realise what was involved’. But it can be challenging to communicate that at the beginning. I had a client recently who asked me how long it would take to complete their project and I told them that we need to ‘hasten carefully’. We’ll take the time that we need to take. We won’t rush it just for this particular deadline because you’ll get a better result if we give your book the time and attention it deserves. Slow and steady, we’ll go carefully, but I think you’ll be glad of it in the end.
DYAN: Yes. That is part of the process allowing it to have that simmering time, it’s like with cooking. You’ve got to sometimes just let the food sit to allow the flavours to enhance. I think very much so with book production. Sometimes I think the publishing houses make it look so easy. I’m always blown away by James Patterson. He just does my head in. I get his next newsletter and he’s released another four books in the month. It almost distracts you from what you’re doing because you think ‘Oh gosh, I don’t produce enough, James Patterson has put out another four’. But I think you have got to step away from that and say ‘I’m not him’, the guy is 70, he’s been doing this for x number of years, he has a team of people writing with him, it’s not just about him.
DYAN: Yes, he has the plot and yes, he does this. But with you by yourself, you might produce one manuscript every two or four years. You don’t know what that’s going to be. To just focus on what you want to achieve for yourself and not worry about what other people are doing, because that can be distracting, and keeping that when you’re in the focus period, have that focus. But when you take a break, as you say, put the manuscript in the bottom drawer to let it simmer for a while and then coming back to it. It is amazing. I’m sure you’ve found the same thing. You’ve put a manuscript away for a little while and you come back to it a couple of weeks later. When you read it again, just how things all of a sudden just pop out at you.
KIRSTY: Yes. Fresh eyes. That’s what an editor is able to do for the client – to act as a set of fresh eyes. But you can often notice yourself, if you come back to your writing after a break, it’s amazing the difference you notice. You get a new perspective. This is where editors can help authors, because they’re too close to their own work. But also if you’re hammering away at it for too long, you do need to take a break to come back with a fresh perspective again.
DYAN: Yes. As you said, those fresh eyes, it is . . . I sort of think a couple of things. One, you’re reading it from a different perspective because you’ve had experiences since the last time that you’ve read it, so you’ve got a better understanding of what you’re trying to achieve. So you’ve now got a clearer goal in mind. Therefore, the things that before weren’t obvious are now obvious. But also because you’ve forgotten some of the information that you’ve put down. So in reading it again, you think ‘Oh yeah, what was I really trying to say there’, because you left that mindset that you were in at the time when you were writing it, or looking at it the first time, which again is that focus, break, focus. You talked about the focus, break, focus on a daily basis. But I think it is also an overlaying idea on a weekly and monthly basis as well, that you do need that focus, break, focus, break, however many times you need to go through that ritual when working through a manuscript with a client.
KIRSTY: But also I think –and this is hard for some authors –that there has to be a time when you just say, ‘That’s it, I’ve given it my best. I’m not going to achieve perfection. This is the finish point’, because that becomes the point of procrastination where you just want to endlessly tweak something. There’s just got to be a point where you recognise that you’ve given it your best shot. You need to be able to say, ‘I’m going to put this out into the world now and I’ll move on with something else’.
DYAN: Yes. . . [VOICE OVERLAP].
DYAN: Yes. My rule for that is two months. I say that if you dwell on something for longer than that, then either, you’ve got to give up on the project and not come back to it for an extended period of time or, you need to find someone else to get it across the line for you. Because as you said, otherwise it is just never going to eventuate. And what’s the purpose of . . .?
KIRSTY: Yeah. Perfection is just not possible. Obviously, you want your writing to be high quality. But forget about perfection.
DYAN: Yeah. Thank you for your time today Kirsty.
KIRSTY: Thanks Dyan. It was fun. I enjoyed chatting with you.