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Blog: What I have learned about the publishing industry through interning

By Stella Black

Reading works in progress helps me as a student
(And hopefully improves my marks, too.)

Interning at Ford Street Publishing has helped me strengthen the skills and techniques that I am currently learning at university. A large part of my course interrogates narrative structure and analyses scenes and characters in a critical manner. I’ve found that it’s one thing to be able to do this with a piece that’s already been published, edited, and is in its final form; it’s a completely different experience to apply these skills to an incomplete piece in its drafting process. They’re still in the works and have the ability to change and be moulded in a way that accentuates their meaning. These manuscripts are full of raw writing, which is wonderful to read and to be able to offer suggestions in order for the writing to reach its full potential.

Manuscript assessments are more involved than just checking typos
(We don’t actually edit any of the typos when reading the manuscript. That happens when the editor comes in.)

Reading manuscripts has exposed me to writing styles that I generally don’t turn to in my personal reading choices or through my required course readings. Analysing picture books and middle-grade novels is new to me, but it’s refreshing to work with more light-hearted content in comparison to what I normally read or write – a lot less pessimism.

However, I have had to learn how to adapt to different writing styles and to be objective when reading drafts. I have to understand each writer’s voice and try to give advice that will make their voice sing in their writing. I can’t just become entranced by the story like I do when I’m reading books at home. I have to think of the story as a set of events and characters that make a strong, supported thematic statement. Does the tone stay consistent throughout the piece and, if it changes, is this intended in order to cause a reaction from readers? How will the characters be interpreted? Are these events appropriate for the intended audience? Does the intended audience need to change? Are there any plot holes that I am questioning as a reader?

How to separate myself as an assessor, reader, and writer
(And learning to not intrude on authors’ pieces.)

When you are reading a manuscript for assessment, it doesn’t matter if you feel more like reading a middle-grade fantasy today and have picked up a contemporary young adult piece. Each story should be assessed objectively and with the same amount of investment in the piece. Each story needs to be appreciated for what it is. What I have found really difficult isn’t reading genres I wouldn’t normally read or enjoying the manuscripts – it’s been great to broaden my reading – but instead, reminding myself that I’m assessing, not writing. It’s hard when you think of a really good metaphor, or piece of dialogue, or even an event that fits in with the story perfectly. It’s not a collaboration, and no matter how much I like the story, I need to adapt to separating my writing from the assessment process.

Publishing is much more involved than you think
(It’s not just the writer and the editor. Someone has to make the books.)

My perception of the publishing industry has changed exponentially. We live in an age where it’s so simple to self-publish your own work, and theoretically, anyone can have anything published by themselves if they want. You can even send a manuscript to Amazon and they’ll publish it for you. Publishing a book traditionally, though, involves many more people than just yourself and a website. There are manuscript assessors, editors, and then there’s the amount of time in between all of the drafts being completed and re-edited and finally finished. Even after that, there are the printers of the books, and the timeline set on the book’s release, which corresponds with other releases of the year. When the book is finally released, there are booksellers, schools, friends, families and readers. The actual process of publishing a book is so much more than just submitting a draft to be printed and bound, but it’s worth it!

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