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Interview with David Brown from Darling Axe

By Al Black | 6th April 2021

We love interviews here at Voquent.

The knowledge and experience of professionals can provide valuable insights for the voice-over community, whether we're talking about YouTube voice-over, success stories, or best working practices. Those who serve creative industries in any capacity are always learning from each other.

With audiobooks on the rise, we thought it would be time to get some expert opinions about the e-publishing industry and manuscript editing. So, we sat down with David G. Brown, Senior Editor at DarlingAxe, to get his informed take on the publishing and audiobook industry. Read on to hear more about getting started in the industry and more general advice about text editing, an essential skill in almost every creative endeavour, including book manuscripts or voice-over scripts.


Q1: What is the Darling Axe and what compelled you to start it?

David: DarlingAxe.com is a team of professional editors and award-winning writers. I founded the company out of sheer love for helping other writers workshop their manuscripts. Our mission is to help authors at all stages in the craft journey, whether they are penning their next bestseller or working through rough drafts of their very first manuscript. Our primary focus is on developmental editing, which can be quite an educational process for our clients. Still, we offer a full range of services, including line editing, proofreading, narrative coaching, and query critiques.


Q2: How long have you been manuscript editing and proofreading within both the e-publishing and traditional publishing industries?

David: One of my first "adult" jobs was as an editor for my university newspaper, first as an op-ed editor and then as a copyeditor. That was back in 1999, and I've been freelance editing ever since. Much of that was for nonfiction projects, but I began workshopping fiction for friends and later classmates in my MFA program at UBC around 2008. In addition to my role as a senior editor at DarlingAxe.com, I also work for Invisible Ink Editing, and I have taken on projects for Relay Publishing and Book Helpline.


Q3: What attributes do the editing of novel manuscripts and voice-over scripts share in common?

David: Editing novels is quite different when you consider the developmental angle. At the first stage of a book's journey to publication, we are not making line-level corrections. Instead, we are immersing ourselves in the story and adding scene-by-scene annotations to help the author build a framework for their next revision. Sometimes this means a few scenes will need to be reworked, and sometimes we will recommend a ground-up rewrite. This is daunting for many new writers, but it is a part of the process.

A large part of the art of a novel is its structure. This is also the basis for emotional draw—the quality of a piece of fiction that keeps readers engaged, anticipating what might happen next, and most importantly, turning pages. Ideally, once a manuscript is ready for audiobook transcription or voice-over scriptwriting, all of this developmental work is done. At that point, editing can be pretty similar to a book's line editing and proofreading stages: we are looking at word choice, rhythm, flow, plus accuracy and consistency.


Q4: What, in your opinion, separates a good editor from a great one?

David: There are many people out there with a keen eye and strong attention to detail. That's super important. However, a great editor is also a teacher. They are someone who understands and can effectively communicate the two pillars of fiction as they relate to that project: emotional draw, as I already mentioned, and immersive potential.

A work of fiction is immersive when it transports readers to another time and place. These factors need to be honed to sink readers into a story and keep them turning pages.


Q5: Every editor has had to tackle revisions with persistent typos and grammatical errors re-appearing. How do you approach that?

David: When a manuscript is published traditionally, it will go through one or two line edits and several proofreading rounds. And even then, you can still miss errors. Even bestsellers can have one or two missed typos, at least in early editions. So yes, this is a challenging job. One of the trade tricks is to do all line editing and proofreading out loud, making it much easier to catch those mistakes. When you read a manuscript aloud, it's pretty hard for your brain to skip over minor errors. Another tactic we have at DarlingAxe is always to bring on a second editor between the line editing and proofreading stages

Close up of someone editing copy


Q6: Maintaining a high standard of quality on a long manuscript edit can be exhausting. How do you cope with screen fatigue?

David: Again, reading out loud is super important in my approach. Also, when I'm line editing, I read every sentence multiple times. Yes, it's slow going, which is why few editors will put in more than four hours of editing in a day. Any more than that and the accuracy of your work is bound to decline. It's also important not to do all four of those hours without a break. I don't use a strict Pomodoro Technique of taking breaks every 25 minutes, but I do walk away from my computer for a walk, stretch, or snack multiple times per day.


Q7: Do you ever find yourself utilising unorthodox editing methods or do you follow a strict editing practice?

David: I think my line editing and proofreading practices are pretty standard. Slow and steady! Perhaps reading aloud might seem unorthodox, but I expect it's a widespread practice in the industry. However, I have been taking a new approach lately to developmental editing. I turn on a slow auto-scroll in Word, then lean back in my chair and let the manuscript slide by. I only stop to take important notes on big-picture issues. This process lets me blast through a manuscript for a first-pass look at how the story is coming together. Once that's done, I go back through a second time and start adding my developmental annotations.


Q8: What are some common mistakes that new editors  make, and how do you go about limiting them?

David: A big mistake new editors can make is not keeping a style guide as they work through a line edit. Consistency is critical, so it's essential to keep notes about optional usage. It's also a good idea to keep a running list of character and place names so you can make sure that spelling doesn't morph halfway through the manuscript—this is super common! To help with this, I recommend learning the basics of one or two style guides (I prefer Chicago) and then create a standard template for each new project. But here's the second point—writers will have their style preferences, so it's important not to override their style choices with your own, but rather take note of them and allow the project's style guide to remain flexible.


Q9: What is something you wish a professional peer had told you when you first got started?

David: Get on Twitter. Go to conferences. Attend webinars. Networking isn't just about sales and marketing. It's about learning the industry's ins and outs, building relationships, and sharpening your skills.  


Q10: Finally, what advice would you offer to those who seek to self-edit their own content?

David: Don't do it! You don't need to pay a professional editor necessarily, but it's crucial to get outside feedback, and not just from your friends and family. Build connections. Arrange manuscript swaps. Edit for others and get them to edit for you.

All this should happen before you start looking for beta readers. Many authors don't pay for editing, but they almost certainly have reliable critique partners they turn to with each new project.

For the creative process of voice-over, writing inevitably plays a vital role. Any writer or author will tell you that a critical part of the process is down to manuscript editing, and this almost always includes a second set of eyes. With all that said, we hope this article helps you on your way to finishing your project.  

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Al Black

Al Black

Al has over twenty years of experience in audiovisual translations. A Voquent co-founder, he has produced tens of thousands of voice-overs and translations for education, advertising and entertainment projects.

About Author

Al Black

Al Black

Al has over twenty years of experience in audiovisual translations. A Voquent co-founder, he has produced tens of thousands of voice-overs and translations for education, advertising and entertainment projects.