Write On – With Sci-Fi/Fantasy Editor Josephine Hao

We had the great opportunity today to pick the brain of  editor Josephine Hao as we discuss editing and science fiction/fantasy, one of her specialties. As we find out below there are no magic bullets when it comes to editing a manuscript.

Because of your profession, I feel an enormous amount of pressure to produce some sort of coherent thought with these questions. Are you constantly mentally editing everything that someone sends you? Even instant messages?

LOL! No need to put undue pressure on yourself. Even editors need editors, as I have discovered that my proofreading powers really kick in when I hit the Send button. I can’t seem to completely turn off my editor’s eye when not working, but I have learned to overlook A LOT.

I am a lifelong fan of the fantasy genre. I grew up on TSR/Wizards of the Coast novels and played D&D and Magic the Gathering. At what age did you discover your love for Sci-Fi/Fantasy? What captivated you about the genre?

I can’t even remember a time when I wasn’t into fantasy/sci-fi. I read all of the Greek myths and then their Roman counterparts early in elementary school when I hung out in the library after school. I also grew up watching Chinese martial arts films where people were flying all over the place and could manipulate chi as a weapon – kind of like the Asian equivalent of The Force. What has kept me coming back again and again is the unlimited potential for discovery and change. Not only was it a playground for my imagination but a place to wrestle with some of life’s challenges. Even though it may be a fantastical world, the character struggles are very human and real. That’s why I love this genre. It can be great fun but also allows for immense growth.

What is the most common mistake you see when copy edting an novel?

I would have to say misuse of words like than/then, their/there, your/you’re, etc.

What is the biggest problem you’ve encountered with a novel when doing substantive edits? Was it fixable?

That’s really hard to pin down, as each author has his/her own strengths and weaknesses. The great thing about writing is that it’s an art form. You can’t and won’t please everyone. Whether or not something is “fixable” depends on what you’re trying to share and who your target readers are. The best advice I can give is to read, read, and read some more, especially in the genre you are writing in.

What is the formula for a successful SFF novel?

Obviously, there is no magic formula, because you’re dealing with people and we all know how fickle they can be. Plus, there is always the surprise bestseller that no one saw coming. However, in my humble opinion, what works for me is great worldbuilding that doesn’t require pages and pages of narrative, well-developed characters that have room to grow, and a plot that gradually opens the reader to new perspectives/possibilities.

What is the best Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel you’ve read recently?

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. Read Josephine’s review at Fantasy-Fiction.



Is it acceptable to end the first book in an epic fantasy series on a cliffhanger? Asking for a friend…

I would tell “your friend” that there’s no definite yes or no to that question. It kind of depends on how you have wrapped up this leg of the journey. The cliffhanger can be a segue into the next part of the journey, which would be perfectly fine. However, without somewhat of a closure (milestone in character’s growth, goals reached in the plot), a sudden cliffhanger would be a tough sell.

What is missing from the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre right now?

Diverse characters! Different backgrounds provide a multitude of possibilities for character development. That’s what keeps readers coming back…characters they are invested in.

World building is hard. What is the best way you’ve encountered to avoid info dumps when creating a SFF world?

Have short setting narratives sprinkled in between dialogue or action sequences that have the characters interacting with their surroundings. This can also help paint a more detailed visual for the reader during those scenes.

Thoughts on these SciFi/Fantasy TV Shows?


Not yet seen but on my list to binge-watch when more episodes are out. Trailer looks Inception-esque. 🙂

Game of Thrones?

Wow, talk about complex. So many sub-plots and characters. I haven’t even read the books but I’m hooked on the TV series. I’m sure it’s just scratching the surface.

Star Trek?

Not a hardcore Trekkie like my hubby, but it’s pretty great. Sci-fi at its finest, esp. TNG.

Orphan Black?

I’m in the middle of season 2 and loving it. Tatiana Maslany is amazing.

Stranger Things?

Surprise hit. Very happy there will be a season 2.


Thank you, Josephine!


Josephine Hao

After many years of working as a clinical pharmacist, Josephine decided to spend more time with her three very active children. Her love of reading was also rekindled. When some of her book reviews caught the eyes of a couple of self-published authors, she was asked to help edit their work. From there, she has gone on to edit other fiction novels, from YA to epic fantasy. After refining her skills through coursework, Envision Editing was born. She offers a variety of editorial services including developmental and copy editing at www.envisionediting.com. When not editing, she writes for Fantasy-Faction, an award-winning fantasy website based in the UK.


Here is Josephine’s #MSWL for Pandamoon Publishing.



What is Write On? Sarah K. Stephens says it best.

Today my friend and Pandamoon Publishing colleague, Francis Sparks, and I are embarking on a partnership that will hopefully inform both of us as writers, and our readership as well. Each segment of Write On will focus on one particular topic of interest to us that we want to get right in our own literary work. There’s a lot we are hoping to cover, from mental health to coding to informing our writing from the masters of the craft, mainly because we both realize there is much to learn about life before trying to embody it in our writing. Francis and I will each take turns pursuing topics, depending on our own training and expertise, and today I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to answer Francis’s questions regarding Gillian Flynn’s novel Sharp Objects and the topic of self-injury, as it was featured in the book. Below you’ll find our discussion, as framed from Francis’s viewpoint and blog. I hope you come away from it informed, intrigued, and ready to write.

Sarah K. Stephens



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