METM22 keynote

In conversation with Sally Orson-Jones

Editing is essential. It can make good work great, straighten out bumpy writing and pinpoint what an author actually wants to say. But you can’t edit in isolation. Editor and author must work together as a team to get top results. And for Sally O-J that’s the fun part, working hand in hand with an author to untangle knots, let characters shine and make a novel the best it can be.

As a book doctor, Sally takes a holistic approach to editing, with much of the work happening away from the page: talking, brainstorming and more talking. It’s all about the author-editor relationship. They have to click – like a patient and their therapist. Part of Sally’s role is to counsel her authors through the process, because she knows that writing is hell: the highs are rare and the lows are consistent. But supportive, constructive editing can restore an author’s faith in their work.

Sally joins MET Membership Chair Helen Oclee-Brown to look back at her career thus far as a literary editor, book doctor and writers’ mentor. They’ll discuss how she unearthed her talent for editing (Sally believes that everyone has a gift – you just have to find it), how her process has changed over the years, how she gets the best out of her authors and how they get the best out of her. 

Throughout their discussion, Sally and Helen will underscore the importance of mentoring and championing younger and less experienced authors, and draw parallels between Sally’s literary work and METM attendees’ practices. 

About Sally

Sally O-J is a literary editor and writers’ mentor. She previously worked as a journalist and editor in the music business, but since 1998 she has worked as a Book Doctor with authors whose experience ranges from absolute beginners to published authors. The latter include Sarah Waters, Viv Albertine, Sophie Haydock, Hayley Campbell and Jacqueline Crooks. She especially loves the process of developing works in progress, brainstorming with authors and cracking problems; she always tells her authors that once they start working together they become a team, and that’s the real joy of the job for her. Based in Brighton, she’s currently on the judging panel for the Cheshire Novel Prize.