Monday, April 1, 2013

A Quick Chat with 'Wreditor' Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth

A Quick Chat with 'Wreditor' Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth
By Brad R. Cook

T.W. Fendley and I recently had the chance to talk with noted author and editor, Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth. We asked her a few questions and she gave us a few answers!

Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth
Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth is multi-published, fiction and nonfiction writer and an editor--in her parlance, a wreditor.  Suzann is a Writers Hall of Fame of America inductee, past faculty member for Washington University's Summer Institute, and a contributing editor for Family Circle magazine for a decade. 

By Suzann's definition, wrediting is an editing perspective evolved from experience on both sides of traditional publishing: as a writer undergoing the editorial process, and as an editor teaming with writers to bring their stories to compelling life.  Teaching is the core of Suzann's private client editing process.  Her unique techniques will hone and polish a current project, and pay dividends applicable to future ones, too.  

Learn about her editing services at
All her books are available on Amazon and both websites: 

Look for the ebook A Lady Never Meddles with Murder, the sequel to A Lady Never Trifles with Thieves.  Coming soon.

Suzann will be speaking at St. Louis Writers Guild’s Workshops for Writers on Saturday, April 6th, 2013! T.W. and I wanted to give her a chance to introduce herself, and allow everyone else to learn about this amazing writer and editor!

How much fact is in your fiction?
From 60-90%, the difference generally between contemporary novels (60%) and historical novels, (90%) all of which were based on real people and/or real events. It's mandatory fiction tell the truth, which lends to a factual infrastructure. Characters and situations must be relatable and identifiable to a real-time reader. It doesn't matter whether the lead character is a rabbit, a Roman slave or a Rhode Island nuclear physicist. Authenticity on all levels is key, which means portraying a relatable, complicated, human being commensurate with the back-drop era, setting, avocation/vocation, societal and cultural mores, et al.

Nothing kills faster a story for a reader than a writer's arrogant and dumb excuse fiction is lies, all lies, so to heck with a knowing his/her stuff to best, conscientious ability. To believe otherwise cheats the writer's creative bounds, and to my mind, disrespects the intelligence of a reader willing to devote time, and likely, money, to a story. That isn't to say a writer's scrupulous efforts won't net an error or six. Writers are human, too. But make the majority authentic, right, and relatable, and the weensy, accidental boo-boos will be forgiven.

What makes your book/characters unique?
Honest, I'm not being a smarty-pants, but what makes my books and characters unique is I wrote them. I could hand over the synopsis to any one of them to another writer, and beyond the blueprint aspect, the other writer's novel wouldn't resemble mine at all. If I qualify for a unique label at all, it's because writing herded me from magazine articles to book-length humor to biography to fiction. Except on closer examination, the three primary facets--humor, history and biography--pretty much interweave in my novels, too. What may seem like a stray from nonfiction to fiction is nearer a skip, than a leap. At root is an ongoing fascination with what makes people tick. If history is circular, the human emotional trajectory is pretty much linear. If it weren't, contemporary readers couldn't possibly relate to Eyre's or Poe's or Homer's. The more the surrounds change, the more the people populating them remain the same.

If you could borrow one person’s zest for writing and/or life, whose and why?

Hands down, Stephen King. He's a writer's writer. Nothing has stopped or much gotten in the way of being a writer. It isn't what he does for a living, a writer is who he is, whether an individual reader likes, loves, or detests his storytelling. Mr. King hasn't written for the money--hasn't needed the financial proceeds from his work--for decades. Yet a life-threatening hit-and-run accident didn't silence him for long, and pneumonia didn't stop him from accepting long-deserved National Book Award honors. No one I can think of more respects the storytelling gift serendipitously bestowed on him--and by extension, fears more what life would be, or could be, if it just as serendipitously winked out one morning.

Not every idea is a winner. Written or not, what’s the most ill-conceived story idea you’ve ever had?

I chose this question, because ill-conceived story ideas never get much beyond my "Hmm . . ." stage. The reason they don't, is I'm a rabid disciple of the power of synopsis. If a hot, shiny idea can't go the synopsis distance, it's brain flatulence, not inspiration. Why any writer would begrudge the time and effort to whip up a synopsis-style test-drive is beyond me. Seat-of-the-pants dive-ins may sound all artsy and creative and free, but in actuality, are self-laid traps. Freestyling is all but guaranteed to turn an already fraught job into a self-imposed obstacle course laced with plot-exploding devices. At the least, seat-of-the-pants imposes far more start-overs, back-ups and (assuming one doesn't quit when obviously behind) post-draft revisions, than laying the synopsis groundwork in the first place.

Ideas aren't a dime a dozen. A dime a gross, maybe, at most. They're imagination's guppies: the more you have, the more you will have. A jillion too many to ever write to completion.

The Writers’ Lens is about “Bringing fiction into focus.” What brings your writing into focus – the characters, the stories, the love of words?

The characters. Always, always the characters. Characters are plot. Characters are story. Characters are the sole reason for stories. Take any novel's alleged plot – of which there are either seven basic ones or twelve, depending on whether you extrapolate the original seven deadly sins to squeeze out five more. Now change original characters to a different cast of characters. By no means will the resulting story resemble the original. West Side Story's plot is Romeo & Juliet's plot. Except it isn't, and not simply because the settings/eras differ.

Plot is a 20 x 40-foot concrete slab. What rises from it, be it a 3b/2ba rancher, a Tudor, an A-frame, a Cape Cod, Victorian, a burger joint, or a multi-car garage is characterization.

Many thanks to Suzann for agreeing to chat with T.W. and I

Want to learn more from Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth?
She’ll be presenting at St. Louis Writers Guild Workshops for Writers…

The 12 Step Program: How to SHOW, How to NOT Tell
Presented by
Suzann Ledbetter Ellingsworth
Writers of America Hall of Fame Inductee and Editor

Saturday, April 6, 2013
10 am to Noon
Kirkwood Community Center
111 S Geyer Rd. Kirkwood, MO
Free for SLWG Members, $5 for non-members

For more information visit

Brad R. Cook is a historical fantasy author and President of St. Louis Writers Guild. Please visit or follow me on Twitter @bradrcook

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