On editors and editing

October 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

After 5 years of freelance writing for dozens of different publications, I know the value of good editing. In fact, I often write pieces simply because I have worked with the editor before and know he or she will help me learn more about my writing. I have had laissez-faire editors and editors who mainly copy-edit, and that’s fine, but I have also worked with editors who made a good piece into a great one. When I find an editor who improves my writing and collaborates with me on a piece, someone with whom the back-and-forth is edifying, I try to write for them as often as possible, even if the pay at the publication is poor or the “exposure” thin. (a few years ago, I wrote about the value of editors here)

Everybody needs a good editor. In the case of book writing, an editor is often needed more before the manuscript is “done” than after it has been submitted. When I was writing A Skeptic’s Guide To Writers’ Houses, I got lost twice during the drafting process. Both times, I reached out to writers who I knew had a great eye for structure. (Structure is, I think, the most difficult part of non-fiction writing, if not all writing.) I hired them, paying them with money I didn’t really have. But just the act of getting the manuscript ready to send to them helped me. And what they offered me, in terms of suggestions, comments and edits, was invaluable.

Even though I have hired editors for my own work, and seek out good editors whenever I can, I also work as an editor. I love taking a manuscript, or a jumble to half-formed ideas, or notes towards a query letter, and finding ways to make it into a book, or a proposal, or a sellable pitch. It is intellectual and creative puzzle-solving. I get to use my imagination, my reading (knowledge about other similar types of writing), my writing skills and my 20 years experience teaching writing to take a piece of writing from Point A to Point B.

Over the years, I have worked as a developmental editor for a publisher, and in the past year I have worked with about a dozen writers on queries, essays, book proposals and book manuscripts. It is work I love (and those of you who know me know I will go to great lengths to do work I love, as opposed to work I kinda like). Not only have I had the chance to bring my experience and expertise to others’ projects, I have also learned about topics I knew little about before, including geriatric nutrition, John LaFarge, Jungian psychology, middle-school pedagogy and spices.  As a committed jill-of-all-trades (or, to put it more high falutin’, Renaissance Woman), I love few things more than picking up new knowledge along the way towards some other goal.

Since I am not teaching this year (in addition to freelance writing and editing, I am Associate Professor at Oberlin College) I find myself with excess pedagogical energy. I want to keep editing, and editing more, for writers of all levels and at all stages of the writing process. (I really should do some real marketing, but for now, word of mouth seems to be working. UPDATE! I have a rate sheet now–email me and I’ll send it to you–anne.trubek[at]gmail.com) Got a project that could use a second set of expert, curious eyes? Let me know.

Is it weird to hire others to edit my writing while also offering editing services to others? Maybe. But it seems part and parcel of a general drift away from hyper-specialization and towards jill-of-all-trades-ness that not only I, but many other Americans, are moving.

UPDATE:  I have a rate sheet for my editing services. Email me at anne.trubek[at]gmail.com and I’ll send it out. Or just email me and let me know what’s up.

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