Tag Archives: workshops

Adventures In Freelancing! (Editing)

OK, forget what I said about posting here once a week for a hot second. I’d like to rephrase it as “I will post here 1+ time(s) a week.”

I’ve been offering freelance editing services for a while now but am still fairly new to the enterprise. Most of my work has come by referral (thanks KB!), and none of it has been what I’d consider “easy” editing. I’m not going to go into detail about previous edits, but I’d like to recount my last experience, omitting/changing the client’s name.

Needless to say, this has all certainly been a “learn as I go” kind of endeavor.

I would argue—and perhaps one of Specter and [PANK] Magazines’ contributors/editors, Alicia Kennedy, can maybe confirm or deny this—that every editor has their own unique editing style, just as every writer has her or his unique writing style. Or, more specifically, every editor has her or his own unique style of initially approaching a new manuscript.

My latest project was one I was indeed excited to work on. After a preliminary read through of “Mr. Smith’s” manuscript, I thought: OK, here’s a chance to finally utilize most of the implements in my editing toolkit. By which I mean that it seemed like Mr. Smith was looking for the kind of feedback and editing advice a writer typically gets when workshopping her or his piece. Having previously attended a large number of these workshops and earning an MFA along the way, I felt confident I could offer Mr. Smith exactly what he was looking for.

However, this turned out to be…how should I put it…incorrect.

I think it came down to my editing style not being compatible with the desired results Mr. Smith had envisioned for his manuscript. This is fair—different strokes for different folks, and all that. A mistake perhaps made on my part was offering to be as communicative as possible throughout the whole process, in order to give Mr. Smith a full sense of involvement in his project. That seems like it’d be a really good thing, however, I can testify that the reality of such author involvement is “not always.”

Mr. Smith, from the get-go, wrote very long and detailed expectations of what his thoughts were, i.e. what he had questions about, what other editors had told him previously, what he was ultimately going for, etc. I subsequently set out with the information of that first email and dove into the manuscript. My style of editing for a first read through is to ostensibly do a line edit as I go and provide a running commentary by asking questions, pointing out word choices that don’t work, identifying awkward or clunky phrasing, and other edits along those lines. Pretty standard stuff. I also try to keep in mind what the client has asked for and address it in addition to my own edits.

However, by offering to keep the lines of communication open, Mr. Smith would send three or four emails during every phase of the process, which made it extremely difficult to address all of his questions, at least in any kind of order other than chronologically. One of the more difficult obstacles I’d encounter was when Mr. Smith would invariably decide items he’d asked about earlier were no longer as important as new questions he’d come up with (after I’d already addressed them earlier in the manuscript). It became difficult to go back and address each new comment/question and also have the resulting “fix” make sense with subsequent comments or edits I would make (of course, after the fact) that referred back to the changed comment (does that make any sense, or am I explaining this poorly?).

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