Q&A Dannielle Viera

NWG Inc talks to editor and writer Dannielle Viera. Her images below are entries to Writing Parramatta 2021: Light and Dark of Parramatta Park and Reflections on Lake Parramatta.

Dannielle, in addition to you being a professional editor, your writing has been published in a number of anthologies and journals. Do you have any favourites?

I have a soft spot in my heart for ZineWest, as it celebrates the often-overlooked talent of Western Sydney writers. I have also had children’s short stories published in three of Share Your Story’s anthologies; the profits from the sale of the anthologies go to a different charity each year. This year, their anthology entitled Once Upon a Whoops!: Fractured Fairytales and Ridiculous Rhymes is supporting the Life’s Little Treasures Foundation.

What kind of genre do you usually write and why?

I write fictional short stories and poems for adults and children, as well as picture book manuscripts for children. In addition, I have recently completed the manuscript for a junior fiction chapter book, which I hope will become the first in a series. I adore writing fiction for adults, because anything goes! I can play with language and syntax, and create an immersive textual landscape that surprises and engrosses the reader. Although writing for children has more constraints, I enjoy crafting stories that draw in youngsters and inspire a love of books and reading (which will hopefully last for the rest of their lives!).

We know you have a long history in the publishing industry. Can you tell us a bit about your experience including what kind of editing you are called upon to do.

In my 20+ years in the Australian publishing industry, I’ve done a bit of everything – from copywriting for Doubleday Book Clubs to project management for Global Book Publishing. Currently, I’m a freelance book editor and proofreader for publishers such as Allen & Unwin, Murdoch Books and HarperCollins. I work on adult non-fiction titles – largely gardening books, but also biographies, textbooks and volumes covering subjects as varied as self-help, health, history, interior design, films and cooking. When I copyedit a book, I simply edit the text and then the rest of the production process happens in-house. When I edit a book, I am also involved in briefing the designer, liaising with the author, taking in author and publisher corrections, tidying up page files in InDesign (for example, getting rid of widows and orphans), inserting captions into the files and sometimes performing picture research.

As a professional editor, can you suggest what issues in a manuscript are most likely to prevent a promising piece being accepted by a publishing house?

When it comes to non-fiction text, insufficiently researched and poorly structured text is unlikely to get past the publisher – unless you’re a celebrity author (when a ghostwriter and/or a structural editor might be used to improve the text). No matter what genre you are writing in, text that is full of spelling and punctuation errors, contains an incomplete or uninspired storyline, or is unsuitable for the publisher’s list (for example, you’ve sent a picture book manuscript to a company that only publishes adult fiction) is bound to languish in a slush pile forever.

Can you give us some examples of works you’ve edited?

Perhaps the most successful book I’ve edited recently is Grace Karskens’ People of the River (Allen & Unwin), which won the Australian History Prize at the 2021 NSW Premier’s History Awards. This year, I edited Futuresteading (Murdoch Books), written by Jade Miles from Black Barn Farm; Dream Home How-To (Murdoch Books), a home-renovation volume by the bestselling Three Birds Renovations team; and Costa’s World (HarperCollins), written by the host of ABC TV’s Gardening Australia, Costa Georgiadis. I am also currently working on two other gardening books written by people who are well-known thanks to their appearances on television, but I can’t mention any names yet …

Now to specifics!  We have noticed shifts in the use of that very vexed element of language, the quote mark.  At NWG Inc we started out by using single quotes for dialogue and double quotes within single, plus single for a term or a title. However, in the Romanian / Australian anthologies we mostly do the reverse, since that is what many of the contributors and readers are used to.  Pieces in Romanian often retain the original Romanian style of quote marks. What trend do you see in Australian publishing – and what do you choose yourself?

I have edited books intended for the Australian market and the US market, and they differ in the use of quote marks. Without exception, the publishers I work with here in Australia follow this rule (and I quote here directly from the Allen & Unwin house style sheet): ‘Use single quotes with punctuation inside, double quotes within single.’ Single quote marks are also used for titles of songs, short poems, journal articles, chapters within books and theses. However, whenever I’ve edited text aimed at a US audience, I’ve had to use double quote marks (and single quotes within double). Personally, as I am trying to publish my work in Australia before anywhere else, I stick to single quote marks.

Any other things you know we’d like to know?

There are two other formatting choices that publishers prefer to see in a manuscript. The first is a single space (rather than a double space) between the end of one sentence and the start of the next. The second is a full-out first line (rather than an indented first line) in the first paragraph underneath a heading. Rest assured that these ‘indiscretions’ are unlikely to see a manuscript tossed aside, as long as the writing is excellent – the humble editor is able to fix them fairly easily!

Dannielle Viera has been involved in the Australian publishing industry for over 20 years, first as a copywriter and then as an editor, project manager, proofreader and author. She is a moderator for the Creative Kids Tales Network Facebook page, and a children’s book reviewer for the Buzz Words website. Dannielle is represented by the Creative Kids Tales Speakers Agency.