EditsByStacey and Stacey Smekofske
A secret to my writing success has been the editing input of STACEY SMEKOFSKE at EDITSBYSTACEY.com so (with this being my column) I felt I’d take a moment to spotlight her mad skills. If you, or a loved one is in the market for a writing coach or editor, you could dooooo much worse than her.
You’ll be glad you checked her out.
With over a decade of experience you would never guess that Stacey wasn’t born with the love of reading and grammar. When she was a vivacious, and some would say obnoxious teenager, she became obsessed with reading and writing after reading The Count of Monte Cristo. Stacey graduated magna cum laude with a degree in communications and English, and she has been an educator for more than 16 years. She is a member of the Idaho Writers Guild and the Idaho Writers and Editors Association. She has a natural talent for content, pacing, and character development and has developed a passion for grammar, writing, and especially reading.
Stacey was born and raised in Las Vegas – she’s part of a rare breed and she is proud of that. She is married to a patient and fun-loving man who is going through a mid-life crisis and tries to rope her in to riding his motorcycle with him. She pretends to like it. They have three awesome teenagers.
Stacey is a huge fan of all creative individuals, and rather than wrap herself up in her own words, she chooses to work with various artistic minds and help them develop their stories.
I recently had a moment to catch up with her:
HAVE YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO BE AN EDITOR?
No. I once wanted to be a vet, a photographer, a fashion designer, a cardio-echo sonographer, and a financial planner and then I stopped trying to impress other people. It wasn’t until about five years ago that a friend asked me why I wasn’t a professional editor. I had to laugh at that suggestion because I once was told by my mother that I was the worst speller to walk the planet. But I have been editing for over a decade and wasn’t getting paid for it – so, it finally occurred to me that I could do something that I love and that I am passionate about for a job. I began to really regret that I messed around with all those other things and didn’t get started sooner.
WHAT WORKS INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE THIS CAREER?
I mentioned in my Bio that I love The Count of Monte Cristo; there are really too many books that I would love to mention here. If people are really interested they can always check out my profile on Goodreads, but it really wasn’t the great works that inspired me. My best friend has Brainiac daughters that read ravenously. One of them mentioned that she was reading a series about warrior cats. This particular series has multiple authors that contribute. This girl, who happened to be in middle school at the time, expressed how disappointed she was in the series because of all the mistakes and character flaws that she found in the novels. I was surprised that a published work could have such problems, and sure enough, she pointed out how some main characters changed gender mid-plot or the name changed. It made for a confusing read, and she stopped the series. I thought that it was a real shame that the editors didn’t catch that. Then I began to realize that right now we have a ton of books that are published too fast or self-published and many are not being edited at all. It’s not just about typos, it’s about quality story telling. So, I thought that was where I needed to be. I needed to help self-published authors realize their potential and not get shelved because they didn’t have an advocate helping them see where they could take their story from “ehhh” to “oooooohhhhhhhh.”
DO YOU HAVE AN IDEAL CLIENT IN MIND?
Hmmmm. I guess my ideal client would be a writer that is really passionate about their written work. I want an author that is excited about the writing process and has a strong desire to publish their best work.
IN YOUR WRITING, WHY DO YOU CHOOSE THE WORDS YOU DO? WHATS THE PROCESS LIKE?
My personal writing has a lot to do with my inner voice. I hopefully choose words that are perfect for the tone and message that I am trying to convey. I will say that there are times that I get a little carried away. Recently I wrote a collegiate paper in which I expressed my academic journey as an addition to my “cannon of aptitudes.” I laughed for weeks about the pretentiousness of that statement. I still find it funny, and people who know me really understand how absolutely silly that phrase is coming from my mouth. I try really hard to make sure that my personality and humor comes through my writing and sometimes the irony is tough to express through written word. The process of choosing my words is very fluid; even editors have editors.
When I am editing, I let that author’s voice dominate. I am very careful not to override their message with my own word choices.
WHO WOULD PLAY YOUR CHARACTERS IN A MOVIE?
Are you asking who would play me in a movie? Because I really just write about me, my husband, and my kids; we are the characters. Bruce Willis would play my husband because he is truly the only guy who can pull off that freakishly scary smirk that makes people wonder if he is laughing or if he is plotting the easiest way to dispose of your body. I honestly can’t imagine who would play my kids; their personalities are interesting, and I am not sure I like anyone in Hollywood enough to play them. If I had to pick someone for me it would have to be Sandra Bullock in a fat suit. Seriously, she is just about the right mix of silly and serious. I also would insist that I consult with her. She should just shadow me for a month or a year in order to really capture my personality. Maybe then we could become great pals and she would join me for a monthly movie night.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST MISTAKES NEW WRITERS MAKE?
They are scared to change. I think too many writers get caught up in the idea that their words are perfect the way they are, and they are terrified of criticism. This usually does one of two things. They reject all criticism and publish their unrefined work. Or, they fail to have anyone read it at all, and it just gets reworked and revised for eternity. The author just lies in the fetal position rocking back and forth while eating Hostess cupcakes and crying about how their work will never see the light of day. It’s a tragic outcome in both scenarios.
In order to remedy this, a new writer needs to embrace perpetual education. As an editor I am constantly learning from peers, books, writers, veteran publishers, and even new authors and publishers. Everyone that shares their knowledge with me is vitally important to my personal growth and abilities as an editor. I feel that the same is true for a writer. A great writer is an avid reader. They are also constantly working with other authors, editors, and publishers to find out how to hone their craft. New writers need to know that they are not alone; there are thousands of people out there that can help them be a better writer and they should take advantage of that.
HAVE YOU BEEN TO A COMIC-CON YET?
Yes, and it’s an experience I can’t wait to do again really soon. Those are my people.
WHAT DOES SUCCESS MEAN TO YOU? A MILLION READERS? AN AWARD? BEING PRAISED BY PEERS?
Look, success to me is seeing my clients achieve success. I haven’t quantified it because it’s all about helping those I work with. I am not trying to be sappy; it’s an honest to goodness desire. I want to help people make their stories shine. If I get an award that wouldn’t be horrible, but I have a feeling that my most rewarding successes will be the least recognized.
HOW DOES INSECURITIES FACTOR INTO NEW WRITERS?
One of the biggest obstacles that new writers is fear. Fear can be crippling. There is the fear of rejection, vulnerability, and just being judged overall. It’s a scary world that we live in right now; social media is king. Unfortunately, that means that when creative individuals express themselves artistically they are allowing others to be critical of that, and sometimes people are not kind. I think that the best advice I can give to any fearful new writer is to find an advocate. There are writing coaches, life coaches, and some editors that having coaching abilities that can help you when fear is hindering your progress.
One of the absolute favorite parts of my job is to coach writers. I have been coaching for years, and it is a natural part of my editing work. A good editor isn’t a cheerleader, but they are certainly not supposed to cut you down to your core and make you feel like a puddle of green goo. A great editor is one that not only helps you make your manuscript something to be proud of but also helps you feel confident enough to overcome fear. Jackie Kennedy once said “An editor becomes kind of you mother. You expect love and encouragement from an editor.” My desire is that each of my clients feel confident about themselves and their work.
ADVICE FOR WANNABE WRITERS THAT HAVEN’T COMMITTED YET?
Just put it down on paper and let others read it. It doesn’t have to be the most refined beautiful written word ever penned, but if you don’t write it out it will never be heard.
You are truly the only person on this earth with your experience, feelings, thoughts, and expression. You are unique; your individual life experience is your own. If you expand your circle of influence by writing and publishing those thoughts and feelings, then you have taught someone something. You have hopefully opened their mind. We would live in a much more empathetic society if people would take a position of learning when we share our experiences. Our lives will be richer, and we will find ourselves happier when we can look at one another through eyes that unite rather than divide. Writers have a tremendous amount of power to influence the world. Write the lyrics, let the editor put it to music, and you will have the chance to enrich someone’s life
So in conclusion Dear Readers, go check out EditsByStacey.com and get “on board” the CAN DO train because as a conductor there’s only one direction Stacey goes and that’s towards your goals. Move your ass! I’ll see you at the destination.
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