I started writing Memoirs of a Future Ghost in November, 2016. Just four short months later, I had written 25,000 words and declared it done. It was basically 25 blog posts of 1,000-words each with no continuity or cohesion. Not knowing any better, I figured it was finished and ready for an audience. As a former technical writer, I knew I needed an editor and, also as a former technical writer, I felt an editor would simply check my grammar and spelling and be done with it. As a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t know any editors. But I did know a fellow author.
Sheryl Parbhoo, author of The Unexpected Daughter, is also my neighbor, and our youngest sons are best friends. It was over many mugs of coffee, driveway talks, and emails that I finally accepted that I needed her help and advice. And her first piece of advice was, “Here is my editor’s email and phone number. Call him. He is A-MAZING.”
With great trepidation, I did so, and it was the best decision because from that first phone call, I knew we would make a great team! What I didn’t know was how much my book would change, but also how much I would change as a writer. As Wayne stated when I asked him what were his first impressions of my book,
I enjoyed getting to know you through your memoir writing. I found you to be smart and wacky, and I related. You really impressed me by being able to face your fears and not only go to haunted places, but invite the ghosts to express themselves! So, your courage on both accounts wowed me. And your story was good, but the collection of blog posts wasn’t detailed enough. Since you write so well, I dove in and do what I do, guiding and asking for more.
And dive in, he did! Wayne wasn’t just my editor, he was also my coach and my cheerleader. Working in the field since 2003, Wayne brought a wealth of experience to my small tome and made it so much more than I thought it could ever be. When I asked him how he got started editing, he replied,
After a few years working on my high school newspaper, I joined the yearbook staff as a copy editor. It was a good fit since I was a Virgo striving for perfection. By mid-year, my fantastic English teacher, Mr. Driskill, told me I would be the editor the next year. I remember freaking out, saying, “I don’t know how to do that,” and he replied, “Sure you do! You’ll be great!” And that was that. The books won top state awards those two years, and I changed my college major from chemistry–An orthodontist? Really?!–to journalism.
No wonder we got along so well! Scientists who became writers! When I sent the first draft of Memoirs to Wayne, what I received back wasn’t marked through with red, critical notes lining the margins. What I found was enthusiastic notes like the following, “This works, but consider expanding it a little. You seek the ghosts out. Invite them into conversation and to appear…” and “See! This story can hold its own in a chapter! And then inspire others, creating momentum! Good job!” Of course, there were misspellings and grammatical mistakes, but for the most part, Wayne wanted to make sure I could create a story and focus on my book. When I asked Wayne how he approaches editing books, he said,
I get a sense from the author of what they are going for, and I don’t let them tell me much as I want to experience their words. Then, I use my intuition and both sides of my brain to analyze and create as I move through the project. Reflecting with good communication, I nurture both book and writer when ready and as needed. And I stay present through all of it, doing my best not to have expectations other than for the writing to be crisp and vibrant, as well as the writer completing a book they are proud to put their name on and share with their audience. I’m very grateful for my clients and my work.
And here’s the thing, in addition to being my editor, coach, and cheerleader, he also gave me invaluable guidance regarding my book cover and internal design, connecting me with those who could help me make those visions come true! Of course, after reading my book about ghosts and paranormal investigations, I just had to ask Wayne where he would most like to haunt when he’s a future ghost like me!
Geez, just one place?! If that’s the case, somewhere fabulous where I’d have a welcoming audience, like the Fox Theater! But tell me: will the law of physics or whatever limit me, or can I easily move around? And, oh! Can I time travel?! Still, as fun as it seems, this sounds sorta lonely! Will you haunt with me?
Of course, Wayne! I see a future afterlife where we both haunt the tropics and grand theaters together, stopping every now and then to peek over the shoulders of budding authors, reading their words, and editing their manuscripts while they sleep, adding our own ghostly spice to their books!
If you, too, are in need of a guide on your writing/publishing journey, I highly recommend Wayne South Smith, editor, coach, and all-around great guy. I mean, he loves Depeche Mode. What else can you ask for?