Charlotte Rose Lange: The medical side of editing
Many writers have a one foot in the writing/publishing industry, but some extend their foot even farther. Charlotte did just that. She used to be a medical editor, and now she’s preparing herself for another journey. Working with medical content provided insight into many things, she said, and now she’ll have that knowledge to take with her wherever she goes next.
Do you go by that name as a writer?
Online, I use C. Rose, but when published, I try to use Charlotte Rose Lange to avoid confusion, but sometimes I forget and get published as C. Rose.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I was at a bit of a crossroads where I loved my day job so much that part of me wanted to let my childhood dream of writing a book fall to the wayside. I used to be a medical editor for a Contract Research Organization (CRO). Very boring sounding, I know, but let me explain. When a scientist, corporation, or very rich person wants to test a new drug, they often hire a CRO to handle the trial. A key part of this is the medical writers who create documents saying how the study will be run (Protocol) and then what happened (Clinical Study Report). Then, I come in and make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed. Except not all companies want their i’s dotted the same way and some don’t even believe in crossing t’s. (It’s a metaphor. Everyone still crosses their t’s in reality.) And, even if you pour over each word of each company’s style guide, you’ve then got to peruse the archives to know to what degree a company obeys their own style guide. And, I may have just turned many of you off from ever accepting a job in a regulatory field, but I was the type of child to skim dictionaries for inspiration and I cared more that Indiana Jones solved the puzzle than that he could swing around with a whip.
What style guide is common in that type of editing?
There’s a style guide based on AMA the company wrote, and sometimes clients have their own style guides.
Do you learn a lot about medicinal research?
Yes. And, you never know what might be useful for a story. For example, not all studies track the infants born of the female partners of male participants, so if those children were to develop super powers, it wouldn’t be immediately obvious what the cause was. Or, if you want horror—there are three ways to make sure a test rat will be hypotensive: breeding, surgery, or injections.
Do you keep a notebook with facts like that? Have you used any?
I jot facts like that down on whatever’s available and then try to collect them all on one drive. As for using medical facts in my writing, I more use medical facts from my own experience in Ascendant and haven’t used anything from my medical editing job directly.
When did you start writing?
I remember in lower school writing a story about a kid who tricks a bully into running into a wall merely by giving them the wrong directions. I never established in what way the bully was a bully or why. I never considered what might happen next. But, I could practically see the scene and found it thrilling to type it up on the family computer.
What are you currently working on? How did you begin working on it?
I am nearly 30,000 words into Ascendant: when a young witch harbors a newly ascended being who broke the rules, she’s thrust into a world of high magics and higher consequences. I have great expectations for this one as I’ve poured a lot into the main character instead of just throwing someone with a tortured past into dramatic scenes. Not only does the protagonist have my own teenage foibles to grow out of, but I’ve given her Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), a rather dramatic condition I suddenly developed two years ago where physical and emotional exertion can cause me to temporarily lose vision (pre-syncopy) or more often to feel dizzy and then need a lot of sleep.
Did you enjoy one over the other (writing or medical editing)?
I loved medical editing more. There was a right answer, I had structure and coworkers, and I was relied on. I’m still committed to writing Ascendant, but I understand it will be a long process.
What have you written that you’re most proud of?
The horror stories I wrote for the CWC anthologies. They were outside of my comfort zone but I felt they turned out better than my other writing.
What inspires your writing?
Living life. The more you do the more you have done. And having done things will generate story fodder now and again.
What does your character mean to you?
Characters used to be a way to play out dramatic scenes or encapsulate a set of beliefs and emotions, but I’ve shifted to using a character to reflect on my identity and illness. The reason behind my childhood goal of writing a book is because I wanted to be in control of the story. Now, I’m striving to understand myself well enough to create a teenage protagonist who is confused and frustrated and betrayed that her health sucks, but in the end (after lots of mummy showdowns and werewolf rescues), comes to love herself simply because she is. (My writerly-inclined boyfriend says “because she is” is too vague. I mean that it is not any qualities or skills you have that make you awesome, it is simply that you are.)
What/who are your favorite or most reliable support groups?
In terms of writing support, I find in-person interactions the most meaningful. In person, it is easier to keep each other on track and encouraged when you can see if the other is faltering or charging ahead and you’re inspired to keep up, but then again 90 percent of my writer friends I found through a variety of writing sites like Writerscafe and Facebook writing groups, as well as writing challenges like CWC.
What is the biggest mistake you think you make while writing? How do you overcome it?
Spending too much time plotting and visualizing. While this is an important step for most writers’ processes, too much plotting leads to never writing. I find it helpful to jump to a point in the story I haven’t thought about in a while, to not look at the plot line right before I write, to let the story go in a different direction.
Which authors inspire you?
I’m not good at celebrity names, but here’s a few (aka 20) from my bookshelf whose books made a lasting impression: Patricia Wrede (Dealing with Dragons), Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman (Good Omens), Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted), Steven Gould (The Jumper), L. A. Meyer (Bloody Jack), Brian Jacques (Redwall Series), Sean Beaudoin (Fade to Blue), Toni Morrison (The Bluest Eye), Suzanne Weyn (The Barcode Tattoo), C. S. Lewis (The Horse and His Boy), Max Barry (Jennifer Government), Hilari Bell (The Goblin Wood), Cinda Willaims Chima (The Wizard Heir), Vivian Vande Velde, (Heir Apparent), Eva Ibbotson (Which Witch?), Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game), Christopher Paolini (Eldest but just the side character, Roran), Tamora Pierce (The Tortall Seires), Avi (Crispin: The Cross of Lead), and username Kuandio on writerscafe (Sakura Dream [unpublished]).
What genre do you enjoy most, and what draws you to the genre you write?
Paranormal, social science fiction, experimental, dystopian, medieval, talking animals, magic, prophecy. Based on the list I gave in the previous question, I found it very hard to narrow down a genre I most enjoy. On a related note, CWC challenged me to write several horror stories, and while I found the process quite angstful, as I am no lover of what goes bump in the night, I was very happy with the result.
I tend to make up stories about heroes with super powers or supernatural abilities. My fondness for the nearly-normal world plus empowered-hero formula is that you can cover relatable drama but you still get to have some fun with your protagonist flying about or sealing a demon gate.