Sara Kocek is the founder of Yellow Bird Editors (a team of freelance editors based in Austin) and the author of the YA novel Promise Me Something.
On December 6, Sara is teaching a class for the Writers’ League called “From Begun to Done: 10 Problems with Your First Draft and How to Fix Them” at St. Edward’s University. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.
Scribe: You have recently published a YA novel. Congratulations! What inspired you to write this story?
Sara Kocek: I have been writing this book—or parts of it, anyway—since I was in high school. That’s how long Olive and Reyna have been lurking in the back of my mind. I love stories about complicated friendships, particularly where the two friends in question are foils of each other. Reyna is shy and withdrawn; Olive is loud and brash. Reyna cares desperately what others think about her; Olive professes not to care. Reyna doesn’t care about politics; Olive is passionate about a range of issues. I wanted to explore the clash between these two very different personalities and what happens when they grow close against the odds.
Scribe: As an author, what is your writing process?
SK: I fill the nooks and crannies of my schedule with writing, even if it’s just twenty minutes at a time here and there. I try to open up my document and dive in immediately wherever I left off without being tempted to read (and endlessly tweak) whatever I wrote during the last session. (Although this is hard for me, since my favorite part of writing is editing–or maybe “tinkering” would be a better word for what I love to do. I could tinker endlessly with my words, and if I had more time, I’m sure I would!) I also try to make sure I’m working on at least two projects at a time, so that when I get bored with (or frustrated with) one of them, I can switch to the other.
Scribe: Which do you prefer; writing for yourself or editing for others?
SK: Don’t ask me to choose! I love both. I will say that other writers I know are often surprised when I tell them how much I love editing fiction for “newbie” writers. They say, “How can you stand all the same rookie mistakes over and over again?” But the same part of me that enjoys teaching enjoys editing these types of manuscripts, since I really view it as a process of educating the author on how to become a better writer. It’s like a one-on-one creative writing class. For me, that’s fun.
Scribe: As a professional editor, what are the most common mistakes you find in manuscripts?
SK: In no particular order: inconsistent point of view or accidental point of view shifts; too much exposition; contextually irrelevant back story; dialogue that fails to progress the plot; purple prose; exposition masquerading as dialogue, and others. So many others. Come to my WLT class in December and we’ll discuss all of these common mistakes and more!
Click here to see a complete list of our fall classes.