Frustrated figuring out how to write different variations of dialogue without confusing your readers?

Written dialogue represents communication and that key element of communication doesn’t change when people are side by side in the same room or separated by thousands of miles and an ocean or texting from another side of the same city… It doesn’t matter where the two or more people are, they can still a conversation but how that happens with today’s technology poses some challenges for writers. Dialogue represents communication regardless of where and how it takes place, whether it’s in real time or reported from the past. That raises several questions, not the least being How do writers handle all the variations in conversations whether by rubbing shoulders, side by side, or miles apart. What happens when you have six or seven types of dialogue in the same manuscript and how do you cue readers to these. One key point stands out…

2 – Fandom

Pat will share key points from Dr. Barnes amazing Fandom presentation at the NINC Conference last fall. She’ll clarify some of what writers would do well to consider and plan for and apply when working on their novels to broaden their appeal to a wide demographic, a demographic that if handled properly and fed regularly, will clamour for more. Meta cognition, Theory of Mind, ways to understand what can heighten the reading experience and help you build a loyal, even fanatic fan base for your books and/or series will be discussed. Some insights will be added from other sessions as well.



Pat Thomas. Editor. In Style Obscura books on editing she presents what she's learned, based on her experiences editing works of fiction for more than twelve years. Style Obscura touches on elements of writing and editing fiction and spans several years in the writing. 


 1. EDITING $40.00/HR OR BY THE JOB—SEE CONTACT INFO AND COSTS This by-the-hour fee relates to edits of back cover copy, interviews, articles for publication and other written text related to book publication/edits.










Most Recent Blog Posting
Questions About Freelance Editing

Where I Stand as a Freelance Editor

Pat Thomas


Qualifications (work history)

I am the mother of three adult children and three grand-babies I don’t see often enough. Beginning in my teen years, I read until I exhausted a genre. About five years in I’d shift to another: paranormal to romance, to historic romance, to children’s, to YA, to suspense, to self-help, to thriller, to fantasy, to memoir/biography to… And that continued until I took editing courses and began to edit work for others.

Q: Who reads novels ten hours a day, every day, but seldom reads a published book.

A: Me.

I have a BSc, a BA, Bed, MAEd (thesis Writing as a Social Act), and second MA without thesis (Critical Literacy). I completed a Certificate in Professional Writing and Rhetoric except for the course on writing press releases – I really wish I’d taken that one – and I’ve taken several additional courses on writing, creative writing and women’s studies. I was a career educator (primary to Grade 12) and then a college instructor in the area of adult literacy until I began taking editing courses while on sabbatical in 2005: Mt. St. Vincent and Ryersen University Publishing Program.

I’ve taken short courses through Editor’s Canada and given writing workshops on editing and have worked as a freelance editor for traditional publishers: Lachesis Publishing, Fernwood Publishing and Roseway Publishing and Harlequin Digital. I have also judged literary and fiction writing contests.

Now I have a small company, WindyWood Publishing. Through it I help local writers get their books into print and e-book formats. I also provide active and ongoing editorial support for several series writers in the States, Canada, and Australia.

I’ve edited 180+ books – through all three levels of editing – and I try to work on two to three projects at a time, overlapping different levels of edits. I take new clients occasionally.

I prefer to edit series of books and in these genres: Contemporary Romances, New Age Fiction, Thrillers, Historical and Fantasy, Contemporary

fiction and Paranormal.

My website:

My contact information:

All rates can be viewed on my website or discussed upon contact with clients.


Brief answers to questions.

  1. What is your best advice for authors approaching an editor.

Read in your genre. Know what appeals to you as a reader. Apply that to your work. Take your work seriously and take it as far as you can on your own. Then find a good critique partner and revise with their suggestions in mind – only the ones you agree with and that strengthen your story. Find out who edits books you enjoy reading. Then approach that editor if you feel they would be a good fit for you, for your genre, for your writing style.

Realize a professional editor has only so much time to spend on your manuscript. If it’s thrown together, lacks logic, contains many errors or requires extensive revision, that will limit how far the editor can help you take your book. Also, realize editors are taught not to take on work that doesn’t appeal to them. So, if they can’t envision ways to help you make it better it’s one they’re likely to turn down. Make sure your editor likes your story and has a level of interest or excitement about working with you on it.

  1. Do you expect authors to have a certain level of skill, and how do you judge that. Or do you work with beginning writers who show promise.

It’s so subjective. Basic writing skills, applied to a great story, can get my attention. Of If I see an easy fix – a way to address and strengthen skills with instruction – I might take a chance. Initially I read twenty pages of a manuscript to size it up – that’s about two hours of my time – before making a decision based on the writing and a concise summary. And I mean a summary, not the back jacket blurb. I need to know the ending too. If I accept the edit on the basis of 20 pages, but find the rest of the book does not meet expectations or style, I will step back and suggest another editor or writing coach.

I work with writers willing and open to learn and who demonstrate that during the process. I’ll more often take on tried and true authors, who’ve written successfully in one genre, received awards, and have worked with editors before, even if they are switching genres, especially if their intention is to begin a new series. I will sometimes take on new clients sent my way by authors I already work with. I do not advertise. I was fortunate to be mentioned and endorsed in The Naked Truth about Self-Publishing five years ago. My most prolific client, Chris Taylor, came my way through that recommendation – all the way from Australia – and we work well together. Twenty plus books, I believe, over three series in four or five years.

Sometimes I’ve been asked to do a “ghost” substantive edit for another editor working on a difficult project. They combine my notes with theirs to present to the author. This is done on a barter basis with another editor whereby they’ll do the same for me if I require a second set of impressions/suggestions.

I have also gently let clients drift away if they keep repeating same large types of errors even if I’ve repeatedly shared instruction and examples. For me, that’s fair.

  1. How do you judge if you and the author are a good fit.  If I can edit the anticipated pages in the time I expect, then it’s working. If it takes five or six times longer to do ten pages, then I am unable to work with the author on their project and will refer them to someone who offers coaching as well as editing. I am very willing to recommend someone else edit a piece. If we communicate easily – and not too often – and if questions and suggestions relate to the project, if timelines are met and if writers are satisfied and come back for more, then I’m happy. I’m not a warm and fuzzy type editor and sometimes the highest praise an author gets is “nice” in the margin. I don’t edit and comment as I would a student on a report card. I take the writer to be a professional and try my best to help.

How far in advance do you schedule clients. New clients, five months or longer, in advance. Series authors create a rhythm that we all work within. There’s a tacit understanding and a unique style guide created for each series and I follow those. It’s like a dance. Depending on frequency of completions and preorder and formatting deadlines this work rises to the top and is given priority. Others are fit in when there are openings.

New authors are aware this could lengthen their editing time and agree to that ahead of time. They have to be more willing to be flexible with time, perhaps stretching the edit to two months instead of three passes over four to six weeks. If an edit goes on too long, with huge gaps between drafts being returned, it can become stale. I need writers to respect that I’m busy and it’s a business, and when we start we do the process. It has to be given priority on their end or it throws everything off for several people and projects. If I believe my substantive suggestions are huge, maybe more than an author is willing to do, I will bill for that portion after the first pass and let them know it’s okay if they’d like to find another editor who can appreciate their work as it is or move them up in the priority pile.

Once in the cue, we’re good to continue, though, if they wish..

  1. What is your expected turn-around time -- You to author and author to you. Four to six weeks to completion for series authors once the process begins. First pass often takes me ten days to two weeks and that’s when I begin to create the author’s style sheet – recording decisions they make as writers – and then I apply those consistently. Then it’s back for a week or two with author who works on major revisions. I take about a week for my second pass. This works if authors take three or four days to do these less obtrusive edits. A week is required at the end because it often involves two proofreaders going through the manuscript and we come to consensus on final line edits. Longest acceptable edit is 8 weeks, from start to finish, please.

Facing facts, I‘ve learned new authors, or authors requiring a lot of coaching, take longer than this because of the cueing system I have with series authors, but also because the learning curve can be huge, on both sides.

I learn something new or appreciate something different with every edit I do. Sometimes it’s about sentences that flow like clear water, or dialogue that grabs my attention, or characters I don’t want to let go of at the end of the book – even after three passes. As well as inspiring me, writers I work with constantly challenge me.

Over time I’ve become less rigid, more bendable. For the first years in the business, I enforced every mote of convention on writers. Would not allow my name attached if they chose something other than convention. My wonderful authors pushed back, exerted their style, intuition and common sense, and over time they taught me about what is most important: It’s not so much about which style guide I use, but rather, what their readers will understand and accept and then applying that consistently.

I’ve learned that if writers are consistent with style, readers will stay on board. I’m working on a book now on this topic as it relates to dialogue: Dialogue Dilemmas. In it I illustrate and discuss how different authors I work with (Bev Pettersen, Julianne MacLean, Chris Taylor, Benjamin Stevens, Autumn Jordan, Anne Zoelle and others) handle different types of dialogue in ways that readers understand. The book’s completion depends on finding time in this crazy life though – and I fear it may never get its time.


August 31

I have always been paid for my work and in a timely fashion. Payment is due on receipt of final pass.

Editing, for me, means ten pages an hour (or a bit longer), regardless of the pass. I go over every page at least three times – usually four with second proofreader, during the editing process. Divide your word count by 250 because 250 words = one page. 60,000 word ms = 240 pages approx. 24 hours editing time per pass. Final editing time approx. 100 hours for three editorial passes and additional proofread. That equals a bill of 750.00 USD that equates to $7.50 per hour for real time editorial support. Additional to that is the creation of the style document, unique to each author and series. This document clarifies writer’s choices in style and creates guidelines to make additional series edits conform to series style. And it’s offered to you to take to other editors if and when you move on.

Also some authors of series require more: A series bible, keeping track of characters’ attributes and details that could be required again in later books.

I believe a truly professional writer tries to make each book better than the last, tries to improve their writing as they move along too.

Things that make me pull my hair out include these:

When I take the time to demonstrate how to do something, or provide style options and share the rationale and the author sends the next manuscript to me for editing, with the same problem.

When an author expects me to fix or complete a work, or rewrite and to plot as well as correct errors and suggest substantive changes that work.

Manuscripts arriving months late and at a time when I’m fully booked already but committed to that edit too. Sometimes there’s only time for two passes because they’re slow to return the first pass and have a preorder deadline. I have learned to charge the total fee based on two passes and offer the third pass free. No one wants to pass up something free and they’ll generally make time for the third pass because of that.

Lectures soapboxes. Instructional text in disguise.

Not being upfront with me about plans for a series. Was told by one author, before each of last five books, that it was the last in the series. They knew I was stepping back at the end of the series and so they didn’t tell me the truth.

When I ask for active writing and get seven pages describing a character walking up a set of stairs.

When I question POV and they don't know what POV is.

Comparison of what I charge with a third-world secretary’s wages, as if I’m charging too much for what I do.

They expect coaching, without financial recompense, when coaching takes vast amounts of time.

When a six-week edit takes a year. That happens when the edit is not serious, when it becomes the last priority for the writer. Luncheons, company, walking the dog, vacations, making dinner – everything else has priority. And that doesn’t work both ways. My time is scheduled. I help authors meet deadlines. To do that, my edits have to run like clockwork, the majority of the time.

Five page emails celebrating what I’m doing as an editor, and constantly asking me to chat about what I do.

Adding 6000 to 10000 words from second editorial pass (copy edit) to proofread because they had more ideas as the story improved.

Quoting scripture, and entire songs and clichés and prayers to show readers what the author knows, rather than adding depth to the story, when those artificial pieces can pull the reader out and make them attend to the author rather than the story.

People who forget the terms of our financial agreement. I do not use contracts, but trust people to live up to the terms.

After rejecting a manuscript, for good reasons, and giving them several suggestions on things to work on, being told if I’d taken them on, I could have made a lot of money: They’re millionaires and highly esteemed – my loss. This, of course, only reinforces my decision not to work with them.

When the author of a book can’t give a one or two sentence summary.

When writers expect to be coddled or to have something like a report card prepared balancing their areas of weakness with recognitions of their strengths. It’s not an editor’s job to balance your strengths and weaknesses, or hold your hand. It’s their job to make sure your book is the best it can be for the demographic that will read it.

I find that teachers-turned-writers are the hardest to edit for. They were taught and teach their students to always let students have the last word on suggested revisions. But writing in school is often just for the student. They aren’t trying to earn a living where they have to consider readers and their response as well as their own. I work to support a work with broad appeal.

I learn something from every work I edit: Dale Mayer (fearless imagination), Chris Taylor who plans her series and novels up to a decade in advance, Bev Pettersen who pulls me into the world of horses and racetracks and has such wonderful dialogue, and Julianne MacLean who amazes me with her new age thinking and the remarkable way she weaves in and connects characters who are often separated by many books in her Color of Heaven Series.

Authors can request I handle things differently for them, for instance Bev Pettersen and Julianne MacLean wanted to show interrupted dialogue where the words fade in, the same way they fade out. They saw rules as impediments to flow or expression or appearance on a screen, so we worked around it to make it work for them and the reader.

How do I suggest revisions. Notes to author, comments often worded as questions in the margin. When questions are posed that means that many readers of your demographic reading your book are likely to wonder about this, to the point they may move out of the story to double check, or to confirm.

Writers who send their work as e-files in Word, but when we get down to it, they don’t know how to use Word, or Track Changes, or make revisions, or who answer my questions as comments instead of addressing the issues in their stories. Or writers who press enter at the end of every line of text they write… Or are concerned about font, and page layout and spend hours on how that first draft looks, when all I do is remove all that, change that to a basic font and double space before I begin to read it anyway.

My goal is for the books I edit to be enjoyable and satisfying to a reader, and as error-free as I can help them become.