We love to share insights from professionals in related industries.
For today’s interview, we are with Caitlin Berve of Ignited Ink Writing to talk about her views on editing writing of all forms and how editing differs from proofreading.
Proofreading and editing are skills intrinsic to all creative industries. Learning more about them will improve your brand messaging and your review of voice-over scripts.
Q1: Can you start by introducing yourself? Who are you, and what do you do for those who don’t know?
Caitlin: Of course! My name is Caitlin Berve, and I’m a fantasy author, book editor, and Ignited Ink Writing founder. I work with authors worldwide to help them take their books from good to the kind of writing that will linger with, inspire, or impact readers. Those are the books that get remembered and recommended.
I also work with local small businesses to create website content and video tutorials. That’s where my recording experience started.
When Magic Calls: A Collection of Modern Fairy Tales, my first book, came out last year. It explores what classic fairy tales would look like if they took place today.
Q2: And Ignited Ink Writing? When and why was it founded?
Caitlin: Ignited Ink Writing’s mission is to help people transform their writing so that it lingers with readers. Whether you’re a fiction author looking to build a readership, or a company writing marketing copy, you need to make an impression on your readers. That happens to be the kind of writing that makes for good audiobooks too.
Ignited Ink Writing was founded in 2017 by accident. I was about to finish earning an MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics when I was offered a part-time job writing website content. The catch was the position was contracted only.
So, I created an LLC (Limited Liability Company) and got a second job as a home healthcare professional. Two weeks, a black bear, and a graduation later, I decided to put all of my time and energy into Ignited Ink Writing. I transformed it into a freelance editing and writing business. I now offer all levels of edits, speak, teach, and write through it.
Q3: I see you have some impressive credentials, such as an MFA and being a board member of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association. What spurred you into the world of editing in the first place?
Caitlin: I didn’t want to take the regular English composition courses in my undergraduate program. I studied biochemistry, on track for medical school, and itching to use the creative side of my brain. To fulfil my credit requirements and because I’ve always been an insatiable reader, I took Introduction to Creative Writing, then Prose 301, and so on.
The stories about magic wielders, creatures from the shadows, and people standing up to adversity I’d held in my head my whole life flowed out of me, and I kept writing even after graduation. While working as a clinical allergy specialist and applying to medical school, I wrote my first novel. I was so excited. Then the letter for medical school arrived. I found out I didn’t get in and was relieved instead of disappointed. So, I went to graduate school for creative writing. Now I get to write and edit the books I’ve always loved.
Q4: Why did you decide to get more involved with writing communities?
Caitlin: Networking and education. Like it or not, knowing people in any industry leads to more opportunities, and I wasn’t finding the community I needed at graduate school. I was the only person in my MFA program who’d finished a novel, participated in critique groups, or worked with writers outside academia. I craved that level of experience.
I stayed and volunteered for my organizations because of the people. Writers are a quirky, warm-hearted group, and I wanted to do what I could to help my now friends succeed as authors. I’ve met the most inspiring people through the writing community and hope to do my part to keep our community engaging and valuable.
Q5: Should voice actors and other creative pay more attention to the writer’s and editor’s associations in their local area?
Caitlin: If you want more gigs, absolutely. If you ask a writer whether or not they want an audiobook version of their book, almost all of them will say yes. If you ask a writer if they know any audiobook professionals, they’ll probably say something like, “my sister’s friend’s mom used this one guy and gave me his card.” Authors don’t know how to find voice actors and audio editors.
However, I recommend looking for writer’s groups that focus on self or indie publishing because those are the authors who get a say in their audiobooks. Self-publishers have complete control over their book and decide who does what, including who narrates and masters their audiobook. Authors whose work is traditionally published through large publishers often don’t have a say in their audiobook’s production.
Q6: What value can these associations offer to people who aren’t writers or editors themselves?
Caitlin: Networking opportunities, face-to-face interactions, and speaking engagements are the most common opportunities voice actors and brands get from a writer’s organization. Word of mouth is huge in the writing industry.
As an editor, most of my clients come from authors I’ve interacted with through writer’s groups or conferences. Other than ACX, authors don’t know how to find or approach voice actors and brands. If you approach them first, you’ll have an easier time getting clients.
Q7: What are some general tips for getting started with writing and editing?
Caitlin: It sounds cliché, but write. A lot. Writing takes practice.
While you’re writing, work on getting more specific. When you first sit down to write creatively, most people will summarize their story instead of fleshing out the manuscript. Readers love specifics. Don’t tell me, “They fought about the puppy.” Show me that scene.
Describe how the husband shook his chewed-up Jordan tennis shoes. Show the wife rolling her eyes. Write out what they said to each other in dialogue. Then remember something needs to happen, and your characters need to change.
Q8: You also offer a range of editing and writing services. Can you tell me a little about those?
Caitlin: Most of my clients come to me for my book editing services. A developmental or content edit is where I look at the story itself to improve the plot, characters, pacing, structure, mood, dialogue, and description.
A copy or line edit is what the layperson usually thinks of when they hear the word “edit.” That’s where I help with the mechanics of writing, such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence construction, and consistency. A copy editor also makes sure that the side character’s eyes didn’t magically go from green to brown in chapter 13. A proofread strictly focuses on errors like missing periods, wonky spacing, or misspellings.
When I write for others, I’m usually ghost-writing blog articles, composing help documentation for software companies, or transcribing podcasts. I create video tutorials to write help documentation and write fantasy novels and short story collections.
Q9: As an editor, what tips would you give to someone looking to edit their writing? Such as a voice script?
Caitlin: Don’t edit immediately after you finish writing it. Take a day or week or whatever length of break you need to come back to your writing with fresh eyes. Otherwise, you’ll see what you meant to write, not what’s actually there. Then start by revising the big or global aspects of your piece. That means reorganizing and rewriting to create a better pace, tighten the plot, and show your characters’ growth.
Ask questions like “is my character’s motivation clear in each scene” and “are the stakes (what’s at risk) high enough to build tension and hold a reader’s interest.” Then you can go back and look at mechanics like word choice and sentence construction.
Q10: What is something you wish an editor had told you about editing writing when you started in the industry?
Caitlin: I met with a couple of editors when I decided to start offering editing through Ignited Ink Writing in addition to writing. The best advice they gave me was to charge no less than $35 per hour as a novice editor. What they didn’t tell me was how much time I’d spend marketing.
Clients don’t find you. You find them. I do this mostly through networking. But I’ve also gotten clients via my website and YouTube channel. All of these things take time and energy.
Q11: As a writer, you are no doubt a storyteller at heart. What are the key components that help you tell a story? Be it fiction or non-fiction?
Caitlin: One of my favorite aspects of writing to play with is point of view and perspective. I love writing characters very different from me or each other to discover why they make their choices. I like to back them into a corner and watch what happens. And I love the sense of wonder that comes with magic. I create a fantastical tone through word choice in my descriptions in When Magic Calls.
All of this is possible because I always know where I’m going. Every writer has a piece of the story they see first. For some people, it’s the beginning. For others, it’s a character. I see the climax. Because I know where I’m going, I can jump around to write whatever scene is speaking to me that day and spend time twisting my plot and characters. I don’t outline, but I do think through the story in my head.
Q12: Did you use these tips to help tell the story of Ignited Ink’s brand? What advice can you give to people looking to get their brand story told from a storyteller’s perspective?
Caitlin: A little. I used the idea of stakes more. Stakes are what is at risk in a story. When I created my brand story, I thought of what was at stake for my ideal client.
One of my ideal client profiles is a fantasy author. Her stakes are her book and her reputation as an author. So, I talk about how editing helps take a book from good to great, leads to better reviews, and creates the kind of characters readers want to cosplay.
If you want to tell your brand story, start by identifying your ideal client. What motivates them? What are they risking? What does it look and feel like once they achieve their goal? Basically, you’re writing their journey. Then insert yourself into that tale. Where do you come in? How do you help them get one step closer to their goal?
Tell that story with you in it.
Q13: Lastly, do you have any parting wisdom you want to share with beginners interested in the writing/editing industry?
Caitlin: You don’t need a degree to be a great writer, but you do need to study the craft. Read books on writing and do the writing exercises. Go to writers’ conferences. Join a writing organization, and find a critique group that fits your needs. Most importantly, write. All of these will make you a better writer.
And remember, that famous author you love, their first draft didn’t look anything like their polished, published book.
The same goes for editing. Study the principles and mechanics of writing. Learn as much as you can and get yourself some good reference books. No one needs to know that you always have to look up that rule about how to write dates. We all have pages tabbed in our reference material. Then figure out your focus. Some editors specialize in proofreading—others in memoir. I specialize in story-based writing: fiction, memoir, anything driven by story.
Once you find your focus, you’ll have an easier time finding clients and enjoy your work more.
For the voice-over sector, editing, writing and proofreading voice scripts are paramount aspects of the creative process. Every voice script will go through this process, and so it is essential to develop your skill with line editing. A good proofread of a voice script will shorten the process and get the project on track to completion much faster. With Caitlin’s opinions voiced, we hope that her advice will serve you well in your upcoming projects!
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Caitlin Berve is a fantasy author, editor, and speaker. Through Ignited Ink Writing, she edits novels, creates video tutorials, and writes. Using her MFA, she teaches creative writing at conferences, colleges, and Colorado writers’ organizations. Her collection of modern fairy tales, When Magic Calls, is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats. Caitlin seeks to fill the world with writing that lingers with readers and finds magic in modern times.
- Writer: Stewart Storrar
- Editor: Al Black