Sometimes I wonder if editing is ruining my ability to read for fun. There are some books I struggle to get through because I notice so many errors, or so many ways to just make it better. But then I read an awesome book (most recently, The Martian – SO GOOD) and realize – no, editing is NOT ruining my pleasure reading, I am just sometimes choosing books that aren’t particularly well done.
I have two thoughts/feelings about that.
- One: sadness! I read one book recently in particular that had a great storyline and some really relatable characters. I was invested – but it suffered from a lack of adequate copy editing and proofreading. I just can’t read the rest of the books in the series now, nor can I recommend the book to others. Sad – because there’s so much potential.
- Two: awe! The more I edit and beta read, the more I appreciate the effort that goes into writing a good book. The author needs to have ideas and a talent for storytelling, yes. But what sets the really good books apart, I think, probably comes down to the crazy amount of tedious effort it takes for authors and editors to work together and thoroughly edit — and then proofread — the text. ESPECIALLY for super long books.
Anyways, these are some of my random musings. I have a lot more, of course, but this is enough for today.
I’d love to hear what others think about this! Please, chime in via comments!
A couple of weeks ago I participated in a webinar run by the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) on copyediting fiction. It was taught by Amy Schneider, who has been copyediting for over two decades. This was my first foray into editing-specific professional development, and I was pleased with the course. Amy described it as “a look over one editor’s shoulders,” which was right on target.
My primary take-away from the webinar is that I am intuitively good at copyediting. (Yup, I just patted myself on the back.) My mind just works the right way for the job, which is probably why I enjoy it so much. Much of Amy’s process and the things she says to look for I already do – I’ve learned it on the job. For instance, when I first started out I didn’t pre-read a manuscript before beginning to edit. I quickly realized I would be much more effective if I did so; this is something Amy described as standard practice for her. Additionally, looking for inconsistencies throughout the document (such as “e-mail” or “email”?) seemed to me to be just an obvious part of the job and something I do when proofreading as well.
Second, the presentation sort of cemented what I had previously only grudgingly accepted but now welcome with open arms: fiction writing is not bound by the same style conventions as nonfiction. Sure, I can use the Chicago Manual of Style as a guide, but hard-and-fast grammar rules just don’t really exist in fiction. Each author has his own voice, and it’s my job as an editor to ensure that voice is consistent throughout, not to, as Amy called it, “edit the life out of the prose.”
Finally, I learned a lot about editorial efficiency. I already do some of the process things Amy mentioned (though without the official-sounding names she had for them), but I can certainly benefit from learning about tools like Microsoft Word macros that can speed up the process. Though I charge by word and not by hour, my clients and I each benefit if I can be more efficient.
In sum, I enjoyed the webinar and will certainly look at taking more of the EFA’s courses in the future. And: I rock as a copyeditor.