Kayla Howarth

Author of The Institute Series



Indies who are looking for an editor: DO YOUR RESEARCH. PLEASE.

Over the last few months, I’ve been contacted by people offering editing services. As someone who has been screwed over a lot in the past, I’m wary. But I realised today that there are so many new authors out there, and any of them could fall for the bullshit lines these people are trying to sell me.

You know that old saying, those who can’t do, teach? What does an author do when their books aren’t selling? I swear a lot of them these days are waking up and saying “I think I’ll be an editor today.”

Now, I’d love to be paid to read other people’s books and help them out. But there’s one thing I recognise that most of these other authors don’t. And that is I’M NOT QUALIFIED TO BE AN EDITOR.

My copy editor/proofreader (*waves* Hi Kelly Hartigan, you’re the awesome to my sauce … or something like that) has said to me that my drafts I hand over are some of the cleanest drafts she’s ever seen. And you know what? She still has hundreds of corrections to make. Aside from being too close to the project, I also don’t know every grammar rule in the book. MOST AUTHORS DON’T. I have serious issues with commas. In particular, omitting them when they are needed before a conjunction separating two different clauses (look at me! I have the lingo down … but please don’t quiz me on using the rule), and then adding them when they’re not actually needed. *sigh* I give up. I’m sorry I’m not learning, Kelly. But hey, I barely leave participles and modifiers dangling anymore 😉

I’ve asked some of these authors who are trying to now break into the editing business what makes them qualified. I’ve heard all different types of answers:

  • I have great attention to detail.
  • I recently hired my own editor who has taught me SO much.
  • I have a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Because I’m really, really good.
  • I started my own publishing house, so I know stuff.

*facepalm* It literally makes me think “Well, I watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy today. Want me to remove a kidney for you?”

I’ve fallen victim to THREE of these “editors” in the past. One was very early in my career. I saw proofreading being advertised for only $100! Struggling indie author me: “Hundred bucks? Awesome. Done.” *gets manuscript back* …… she missed typos even I’m now finding! I’m lucky I was only out $100. This was the editor’s discounted price. Full price, she was asking for $400, which is about average for what I pay for Kelly to proof my work now. (She charges per page, so each MS is different in pricing.) But, this was a lesson in learning you get what you pay for. And I’m happy to say, this editor is no longer in business.

I wish I could sit here and name all the people I’ve had bad experiences with. But the reason I’m not naming names here and screaming from the rooftop for people to stay away from certain people is because drama can affect public image, which can affect sales, which affects income/visibility etc etc etc. You don’t want to be famous for being the author who makes enemies.

So what I’m going to do instead is run over a list of things for authors to be wary of when looking for an editor, and questions to ask.

  1. Who have you worked with before, and what books have you edited?
    I would purchase said books and look at the editing quality. Are there mistakes? Are their grammar issues? Was an extra/another editor listed in the front/back matter?
  2. Are you willing to give a free sample of what you would do to my work.
    Most editors will be willing to do this up to about 2,000 words. The only problem with this is any changes/catches will seem good to an author, right? So, they catch some errors, but how do you know they got them all when you yourself couldn’t see any during your own revisions?
  3. How far ahead are you booked?
    Does it suck that I usually have to wait a month to get into my editor? Sometimes. But there’s a reason she has constant work. SHE’S GOOD. Anyone who says “I’m available whenever you want, and I’m never overbooked” is a red flag. If they truly are as good as they say, they will be booked for a while in advance, because they will have regular clients. I know of an editor who charges through the nose, is booked out for MONTHS (sometimes up to six months) in advance, and she recently announced she was no longer taking on new clients because she just doesn’t have the time. But she’s obviously sought out for her talent.
  4. Can I see a contract?
    One of my editors didn’t even have a contract. She told me she’d be done in ten days, took my money, and by day nine, I was worrying. Especially when she emailed me and said she was 3/4 the way through. She gave me my manuscript back on time, but that means she rushed through the last 25% in twenty-four hours. How accurate could her edits really be?
  5. What kind of editing do you do, and what does it involve?
    I was recently approached by someone who’s looking for editing clients. Yet, after five minutes of talking to him via private message, I already could tell he had NO idea what he was talking about.
    He didn’t know the difference between content editing, copy editing, and proofreading. It will do you well to learn the differences yourself. Here’s a blog I found which explains it.

Don’t get sucked in by people who claim to be the best without them being able to back it up with PROOF.

The cheap price tag of some of these editors is enticing. I know that. But a lot of the time, you may as well not hire one at all when they don’t know what they’re doing.

If you’re looking for my recommendation (I kinda don’t want to post the link because I feel possessive over her. SHE’S MINE, DAMMIT) you can’t go past Kelly Hartigan at Xterra Web. You can find her services here.
*She only does copy editing/proofreading.

If you have a great editor, spread the word!

Let’s not give work to those who are out to make a quick buck and have no idea what they’re doing. It’s a waste of your money, and it really leaves a bitter taste in your mouth when you’re out hundreds of dollars (sometimes thousands for some people!) and have nothing to show for it but maybe some typo corrections here and there.



To Americanize or not to Americanise …

Here’s a little insight into the workings of one complicated mind. MINE. Brace yourselves, because this may not be pretty.

When I started writing, I decided to set my first book in Australia because, well, I’m Australian. Please don’t hold that against me. We’re not all binge drinking, stubbie wearing (short shorts) drongos (idiots).

I figured it would be easier to write what I know because I wouldn’t have to worry about remembering to drop the U out of colour, favour, habour, labour … you get the point. I wouldn’t have to remember that realise has a Z in it. I was also starting out and didn’t have the money to hire a proper proofreader who would change these things if I messed it up.

But the more I write, the more I realise there’s no way I’m going to be able to write a book set in America because I am TOO Australian. For instance, I had no idea ‘How ya going?’ was not a universal thing until a beta reader laughed at it and asked ‘Huh?’ (Translation: How are you today?) A yobbo is an idiot (notice we have a lot of words for idiot?), a prawn is a shrimp (yes, if we had a Bubba Gump Shrimp over here, it would be called Bubba Gump Prawn … not as catchy, really) and the boot of a car is called a trunk. Don’t even think about calling someone a bogan. And what about fairy bread? What is this, you ask? Only the best invention ever. Bread, butter, sprinkles (Also know down here as Hundreds and Thousands). Go. GO EAT THIS DELICIOUSNESS RIGHT NOW!


I have an awesome editor now (who is actually American), and if I set my mind to it, I really could set a series in the US. But I’ve taken it upon myself to educate my readers about the awesomeness of the broken English we call Aussie slang. So I think I’m gonna stick to writing about Australian’s who say random stuff that make my readers whip out Google.

‘on ya, mate. (Translation: Good on you, friend.)

So, having said the above, there are a few Americanisms I have adapted to my writing, and here are the reasons why:

Ass. That’s right, ladies and gentleman. Ass is spelled arse over here. One of my favourite things to do is call someone an arse, and singularly, I prefer arse to ass. (I don’t think I have typed the word arse/ass so much in one damn paragraph.) However, put it together with other lovely terminology of name calling and what do we have?

  • Arsehole (that just looks wrong)
  • Jackarse (umm wha?)
  • Dumbarse (you get where I’m going with this)

So, my original idea was to adapt whole words like asshole, jackass, and dumbass, but keep arse for singular.

But what about the inconsistency?

Dammit, what’s a girl to do when she is faced with such large life dilemmas like choosing between using the word arse or ass?

I referred to the number one rule of writing. Okay, maybe not THE number one rule. There is no one rule that beats out all the others. There’s a billion rules, all of which aren’t set in stone, that all make my head hurt if I think about them too hard, and … okay, I’m getting off track. One of said many, many, many, many rules is to stay consistent. And this is how my brain decided to use ass over arse. (Are we having fun picking apart how my mind works yet? No? Let’s keep going!)

Living room. What most Australians call a lounge room, I tend to gravitate towards the more universal word of living room. Everyone knows what it means with little explanation.

Thongs/Flip-flops. You know what? None of my characters wear thongs. It’s just easier that way, because calling them flip-flops in Australia is just WRONG. And calling them thongs makes Americans think we wear underwear on our feet (when we all know, we only do that when we’re at home alone.) I try to make my characters wear boots or heels.

Tank top. In Australia, we call tank tops singlets. After finding out that’s what Americans call wrestling outfits, I decided to take on tank top as part of my written vocabulary. I assume most Aussies know what a tank top is, but not everyone knows what we mean when we say singlet.

I’m positive I’ve taken on more than the ones stated above, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind, because they’re ones that are used often.

I’ve heard it’s a trend right now for UK English writers to adapt to US English spellings, creating a sort of mix breed of English. AKA Canadian English. OOH SNAP! Hi Canadian friends. I love you.

When it’s all said and done, language barriers can be a pain for writers, but sometimes even moreso for readers.

I’ve had readers complain that while my books are set in Australia, not all the language fits with being Australian. But I’ve had way more reviews tell me they want my books translated to American because apparently the Australian language doesn’t make sense.

To which all I have to say is:

Strewth, there must be kangaroos loose in the top paddock for ’em not to get what I’m sayin’. My writing’s chockas with bloody ripper words. Deadset, mate.

Anyone care to translate?




My First Pancake

So the old saying goes that the first pancake of the batch is never any good. By the second, third, fourth, you get a feel for the temperature, and know when to flip it so it’s that nice golden brown colour. A lot of people dismiss the first pancake because of this theory, throwing it in the rubbish (‘trash’ for all you Americans).

Taking this and applying it to my writing, The Institute is my first pancake. Before I published it, I had no idea a world of supportive indie authors was waiting for me on the other side. The only people who had read my book was my family and friends. All of them were supportive and encouraging and gave me the confidence to publish.

A few of them had mentioned the story was slow to get into. I knew they were right, but I had no idea how to fix it. I was inexperienced, and just spent eighteen months perfecting it. Now I have to change it again? I whinged. I could have paid for an editor, but for a manuscript of that size, for what I was looking for, would normally cost around $600. And this would be considered “cheap” in the editing world. Struggling wannabe authors don’t have that kind of cash. Others who read my book had said that they didn’t find it slow at all, that everything that happens in the beginning is vital for what happens later. So I left it. Even though I didn’t like it. I was expecting some reviews to point out the slow beginning, so I was prepared for that. Everyone has a different opinion and I knew there were some people out there who liked it the way it was, and there would be others too.

Since writing The Institute, I have written and released the sequel, Resistance, and am preparing the third to be published later in the year. I’m also two thirds through writing a new book which is in the same Institute world, but new characters, fifteen-twenty  years after Allira’s story. What my point here is, I have a second, third, fourth pancake that I’m proud of. I’m still learning, I think this is the type of industry where you never stop learning.

I was right. Majority of reviews have been positive, but the one thing that’s a constant is pointing out the slow beginning. So after yet another review stating The Institute was way too slow to get into, I knew something had to be done. I had a light-bulb moment, and got to work.

Using what I know now, I’ve managed to delete about 4000 unnecessary words. FOUR THOUSAND UNNECESSARY WORDS. In the author world, unnecessary words are evil. And I had a bunch of them, wasting my MC’s and my reader’s time.

How did I do this without changing the story line?

They always say, “Show, don’t tell.” But what happens when you’re showing scenes that aren’t pivotal to the story? By removing two major scenes that only contained a small amount of vital information, then working said vital information into a conversation between my MC and her love interest, the beginning becomes tighter and quicker to get into. I’m hoping.

So, this is really just a long-ass post, alerting you all to the fact that The Institute has had a face lift. Will it affect those who have already read it? No, because the entire plot remains the same, minus a few minor points that doesn’t matter how it happened, so long as the reader is told it happened. (One of said points is a conversation between Allira and her English teacher. This conversation is no longer seen, but Allira tells Drew about the conversation, stating the important part.)

I was also able to add more world building points while I was at it. For instance, does anyone know why there are no mobile phones in the future in Allira’s world? (Cell phones for you Americans.) I’m able to explain that because the country became self-sufficient when a pandemic broke out decades ago, the cost of mobile devices became phenomenal. The technology still exists but is reserved for government agencies only.

Same goes for the proliferation of lab grown foods. Lab grown food is something we’ve already achieved in this lifetime, but what would happen if there was a catastrophic event where the majority of the population was wiped out? One of the first things the government would do is secure a sustainable food source for the remaining population.

While I believe these points could have remained out –  letting the reader determine these things for themselves, anything that gives the world more depth is worth adding in.

So what happens when you don’t make the perfect first pancake? Write a second edition.

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