Friday, February 20, 2009

Editing Exhilaration & Networking

imageA couple of weeks ago, I had my first professional story-edit. It was AWESOME!

While I wrote the editor’s letter to the author, I didn’t get to talk with the author directly. (I’m new, so it’s right that I should prove myself first.) The main editor agreed with everything I noted, which was great.

What I didn’t expect was how much fun I had. Or how I can’t wait to see what the author does with the story. I believe in her abilities, and I’m excited to see what she does.

(I have to resist the urge to call her up and ask her if she’s writing yet!)

It’s not like critiquing a friend’s story. I always err on the side of being a cheerleader. They’re my friends. I am thrilled to be asked and grateful to read their story!

Likewise, (as you guys know) I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of asking a friend to edit my stuff.

I watch people mix friendship and a professional relationship with ease, but it does mystify me. Some people are great friends with all their professional relationships. Some people mix networking with friendships easily, too.

imageSo many of you mix critiquing and friendship. That, too, mystifies me.

I have a tendency to refuse help if I’d rather be friends with someone. This isn’t fair, because I LOVE giving help to friends. (Talk about a double standard.) But I suppose I’m going to have to get past that one day and learn that social skill set, LOL.

Anyway, I have an application in hand for something really, really cool--PERFECT, really—but I’m a little torn. I’d have to pass the editing tests first and then be hired, LOL, but I would just LOVE the job. It’d be such a perfect, ideal fit for me in almost every way.

But it seems that if you’re an editor, you’re not allowed to be a writer. Conflict of interest and all that. You can write, but you just can’t be a writer blogging about writing or a writer working with another publisher.

It’d mean I’d have to give this cozy place up. On the other hand, I really love editing. I’d like to do it every day. I’d love the experience.

Although I am confident in my abilities, I can’t really see hanging out a freelance story-editing shingle without some “real” experience. (Just look at the kind of editors who give that a bad name!)

image I know there are all sorts of story-editors (What do they call them? Book doctors?) online without much experience at all. I don’t know if they make a living off of it, but if I were a writer, I’m not sure I’d hire them. How could I ask someone to take such a chance on me? Then there’s a whole plethora of ex-NY editors with AMAZING credentials.

So I feel in sort of an odd place at the moment. I understand writing and editing are different skills, but they are two things I love. Why must I pretend not to do one in order to do the other? Is it just a societal continuation of the myth that people are meant to do ONE thing only as their life’s passion?

Anyway, what experience do you have working with professional editors? What would make you hire one? What credentials would you want?

Any thoughts?

34 bonus scribbles:

Bevie 2/20/2009 07:12:00 AM  

I have never been published, so I have no experience working with a professional editor. (Other than to received rejection slips.)

Actually, I'm commenting because of your mentioning not wanting help from friends. Why?

In my thinking, true friends will give a true answer. That can hurt, but if it is the truth, there is no reason to stop being friends over it.

The only reason not to ask would be because they just don't know.

Richmond Writer 2/20/2009 08:14:00 AM  

My guess is you're talking about a serious job that pays well. I take it the fun and money are worth giving up writing?

Also do you feel creative when you edit? My husband and son think computer languages are fun. Some people think math is fun. It depends on you and I would say if editing is more fun than writing or blogging (I assume you can still visit blogs) then the rest will follow.

spyscribbler 2/20/2009 08:34:00 AM  

Oh gosh, Bevie, I'd never stop being friends over something like that. No, my reluctance probably has something to do with, er... for example, asking my mother for a little favor (her husband calling an honest car mechanic who won't jip a girl off), her agreeing, and then me providing the details (just the list of work I want done) for said call suddenly causing her to not talk to me.

Um, you know, to me? That's just perplexing. So it's more to do with stuff like that. I guess I don't feel like I have a handle on the "invisible rules" of asking for a favor.

spyscribbler 2/20/2009 08:38:00 AM  

Totally creative, Richmond! I'd be able to write all I want, just not publicly. If I got published in a competing market, I guess I'd have to quit. I've yet to see strong evidence of my desire to leave my tiny niche.

Kath Calarco 2/20/2009 08:40:00 AM  

Spy do what makes you happy. If editing and writing does, why not do both? I don't see a conflict of interest, unless you're submitting mss to the publisher you're working for.

In answer to your question, I'd prefer a crit-partner/workshop-mate over a professional edit. After all, writing is an art, and that said, most of us are starving. I guess if I paid an editor (and good ones charge what they're worth - a lot, I think), then I may as well use the money to self-pub. (Never gonna happen)A professional edit doesn't guarantee a publishing contract, right?

The only editor relationship I endured was when I had a publishing contract with a now defunct publisher. The woman knew the basics, but also provided no room for discussion, and she never backed up her claims except to say "It's my way." I got the feeling she wanted to make my story hers. Thus, it was a good thing the publisher folded overnight. :)

Jenna 2/20/2009 08:48:00 AM  

I don't think I'll ever ask a friend to beta-read or edit. For one, I don't believe that a friend can give an honest-to-goodness, tough and true critique and they'd be lying if they said your friendship and feelings weren't first and foremost in their mind.

I'll be honest, I know I would be too nice if I was editing a friend's work and too nice isn't going to help them.

Ok, so if I'm reading your post correctly you're looking at an editing job but you wouldn't be able to write with the intention of getting published and you couldn't blog, at least about writing, if you took this job? What about blogging about editing?

I'm with you, I think editing is actually fun (I used to be a technical writer/editor) and I think it taps into the creative side of your brain.

I'm with you on hanging up an editing shingle with no real experience but if it's something you enjoy and would like to try and make some money at what about offering a 1 to 5-page critique free and if the writer is happy then they pay for the rest. Just think, once a few writers get published after your "help" you'll be very experienced and very reputable and you could still write AND edit.

I don't think we're meant to do just "one" thing in life--NO WAY--and people can definitely be skilled at more than one thing.

Ignore me if I'm sounding all career-counselor like, it's an almost habit with me lately--the hubby is struggling with his job :).

After all that babbling, I have never used a editor but deep down I want to at some point. If you throw up a shingle and my type of story is up your alley I'd use your services some day!

Janna Qualman 2/20/2009 09:38:00 AM  

Spy, this possibility in front of you sounds awesome! Do keep us posted, and good luck!

I've done freelance editing work (through my own business) and I can say first-hand, it does not sustain our income. And that's okay... because true love is the writing. It think there's truth to finding just one to stick with.

Eric Mayer,  2/20/2009 10:22:00 AM  

I've never taken a writing class but I've learned an enormous amount by working with editors *after* they've bought my work. I learned tons about nonfiction when I was writing features for Jim Leunk at the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. He liked my style, I guess, bought something then proceeded to teach me how to actually write acceptable feature story and consumer articles.Likewise, Barbara Peters bought the novel Mary and I sent her and then started telling s what we needed to know, starting with our rewriting the book she'd already bought. It is much easier to accept criticism from someone who has evinced enough respect for your efforts to have already paid you!

Charles Gramlich 2/20/2009 10:32:00 AM  

I have a hard time critiquing friends' writing as well. I've hurt feelings a couple of times without intending to. I generally dread when friends ask me for an "honest" critique.

Stephen Parrish 2/20/2009 10:50:00 AM  

So many of you mix critiquing and friendship. That, too, mystifies me.

It's a crucible thing. We're all in this together, and we owe each other the brutal truth. Critique onto others as you would have them critique onto you.

Amy Nathan 2/20/2009 11:17:00 AM  

It's a tough call isn't it? I like the idea of blogging about editing and the company you might work for,like agents blog about being agents etc. It would be a personal/professional blog and might even lead more good writers to that company, y'know? You could offer it as a service to them - to blog as one of their editors.

Angie 2/20/2009 11:48:00 AM  

See, to me, there's no conflict between friendship and critiquing. If a friend of mine is serious about wanting to be a writer, about learning and growing and improving, and has asked me to critique a story or a chapter or whatever, then I'd be a bad friend if I went easy on them, or ignored things I thought were problems with their work. Critiquers help writers, and if the writer can't deal with that, it's the writer's problem and no one else's.

I think most people here have some sort of realistic idea of what the publishing industry is like. It's no place for thin skin or delicate sensibilities or fragile feelings. It's just not. And if someone who wants to be a working writer is cursed by any of those characteristics, it's in their best interests to start working on getting rid of them, like, immediately.

Yes, I've run into people who ask for criticism but don't really want it. Or people who ask for criticism while actually believing that their story is just all that and bag of chips, and that their critique request will really bring them nothing but gushing praise -- they joined the workshop or whatever in a bid for pats and cookies and applause, nothing more. (The fact that most of the folks with these attitudes are actually need to do a boatload of work on their writing says something, I think.)

These people aren't ready to be published writers. Not just because of their skill level, but because 1) if they can't take the kind of criticism you get in a workshop or from a critique partner, they're definitely not ready for the whitewater experience of submission and rejection, and 2) with the "I already rock and anyone who doesn't think so is either stupid or jealous" attitude, they're not going to improve they're writing. They've locked themselves into a rut and there they'll stay until they learn to be more objective about their work, and to value helpful criticism wherever they can find it.

I don't tend to be close friends with people who have these kinds of ego problems, whether the issue is too much or not enough, so unless I'm in an open workshop (which I haven't done for a while) the whole "OMG how will this writer respond to my critique?!" issue doesn't come up.

Bottom line, anyone who can't see honest criticism for the wonderful boon it is, isn't ready to be a serious writer. I don't critique for people like that. I do critique for friends who are serious and will value the time and effort I'll put into helping them out.


LaDonna 2/20/2009 12:34:00 PM  

Spy, I worked with an editor once, and absolutely loved the experience. The fit was great, and I learned a lot. That said, you gotta follow your heart on this one. You sound so excited at the prospect. I don't understand the part about not being able to write. Is that a rule? Sheesh, goes to show how much I know about the biz. lol.

And I so hear ya about asking for anything. I'm a total dud about that too. I figure all of my friends are crazy busy writing their own stories too. I do know a crit group wouldn't be for me either, I don't like criting. I'm a lone horse in that regard, I guess. lol.

Melanie Avila 2/20/2009 12:58:00 PM  

I've never used a professional editor, so I can't answer that. It seems strange to me that you can't blog about writing if you're an editor. What difference does that make? To me, that's like saying you can't ever give a child instruction if you switch from being a teacher to a principal. I don't get it.

Edie 2/20/2009 01:02:00 PM  

or a writer working with another publisher.

I can kind of see the blog thing, although I don't agree, but I don't like that restriction. I'd think twice.

I've had comments from two editors who nailed what needed to be fixed in my books. As for critiquers, my CPs and I are friends. I've had critiques from a couple of people who had a different style of critiquing. Though we didn't continue our critiquing relationship, we kept our friendship.

L.C. Gant 2/20/2009 02:50:00 PM  

Hey, Spy! I've been following your editing adventures with great interest, mainly because I share your love for copyediting. Lately I've been thinking about getting into the biz as well.

I'd hate to see you let go of this wonderful blog (it's one of my favs!), but you should do what you think is best. In the end, we all want you to be happy, and if that means you taking this editing job, then more power to you!

That said, I think you may want to give freelance editing another look. It would give you the best of both worlds, and it's not as hard to break in as you might think. I knew a professor a while back who did freelance editing for years, and she gave me a lot of great advice on how to get started.

Try offering to edit for friends and family first to build some informal experience. That may help you feel more comfortable taking on clients. Your writing is obviously strong; you just need a little confidence. Once you get a few happy clients under your belt, the rest will come through word-of-mouth.

If you want, I can email you with some of the tips she gave me. Just let me know. Good luck!

Kate S 2/20/2009 03:36:00 PM  

Hmm... I know Ellora's Cave has those restrictions for editors, and so do a few others. From what I was told, they want their editors to be focused full time on editing, and not spending valuable time writing their own stuff. :)

That was a tough call for me, too, when I thought about applying for an EC position. In the end, it was a no-go. Although, it's still a tough call - I like editing about the same as writing, but I just don't want my options taken away. :(

spyscribbler 2/20/2009 09:14:00 PM  

Kath, I think I do buy into the whole idea that they are two different skill sets. I'd rather have a professional edit than a critique group, but we all know I'm just plain weird in that respect, LOL!

spyscribbler 2/20/2009 09:16:00 PM  

Nah, Jenna, I need the career-counselor talk! I'm torn, but the money sure looks nice, let me tell you! Real nice!

I do see lots of people who do a ten-twenty page sample edit, then you can pay for more. That's not a terrible idea!

spyscribbler 2/20/2009 09:17:00 PM  

Janna, a lot of people say that. It's a tough call for me. I tend to crave security, even though my heart enjoys doing everything but what brings security.

So this is sorta looking good. Especially since I really want a baby. :-)

spyscribbler 2/20/2009 09:19:00 PM  

Definitely, Eric! I'm ruthlessly self-taught, mostly. Of the editing I've had, I haven't learned much... usually just a little thing there, a little there here.

I enjoy being edited, though. Very much.

spyscribbler 2/20/2009 09:20:00 PM  

Charles, I hear you! I try my best, though. No one's said I offended them, but who knows. :-)

spyscribbler 2/20/2009 09:21:00 PM  

LOL, Stephen. See, in general, I have enough trouble with the social skills of being a friend, LOL. I don't want to add more complexity to it! :-)

spyscribbler 2/20/2009 09:21:00 PM  

Hmmm, Amy, that is a thought. That would be fun!

spyscribbler 2/20/2009 09:24:00 PM  

Angie, that makes a lot of sense! I think, personally, I'd just rather wait until someone pays me. :-)

All you said was good. I have enough to worry about with myself, LOL, that I don't have time to worry about where someone else is on their path. I'm just happy they're on their path! :-)

spyscribbler 2/20/2009 09:25:00 PM  

LaDonna, I'm definitely a lone horse in that one, too. And I've had people offer, but then the next day talk about their life in such a way that makes me feel like I'd be a HORRIBLE friend if I asked them for such a favor! They're busy enough!

spyscribbler 2/20/2009 09:27:00 PM  

Melanie, it is odd. It seems a prevalent attitude. It's sort of saying that once you start teaching piano, you can't play anymore. I'm a better teaching when I'm playing. Likewise, I think I'm a better editor when I'm writing.

But... I don't know. I'd have to ask about the complexities of it. I suspect part may come from a fear of an editor wanting to write "through" their writers, or maybe just using the position, falsely, as a way to get published. I really don't know.

spyscribbler 2/20/2009 09:29:00 PM  

See, you're great at that, Edie. You're one of those people who I think is absolutely amazing at networking and critiquing and all that stuff, while also being a real friend, you know?

Well, really, all wrapped up, I think you're pretty amazing, period. :-)

spyscribbler 2/20/2009 09:34:00 PM  

L.C., that's a thought! That's definitely a thought. I'm going to have to think about it. I have to admit, the health insurance sure looks appealing. But that is definitely a thought. I do like my freelance freedom!

spyscribbler 2/20/2009 09:36:00 PM  

Is that it, Kate? It is Ellora's Cave I'm interested in. I like them and they're local. I am quite torn about this, though.

See, for me, it only takes me 3 hours to write 3K. So, um, I have plenty of time to do a full-time job, besides!

Robin 2/20/2009 11:43:00 PM  

Spy, you'd be an awesome "book doctor". I think you should "hang out your shingle"!

I was once asked to beta read a friend's work, and I really enjoyed doing it, but it took HOURS. Therefore, I'm terrified to ask anyone to do it for me. I'd way rather pay someone, so I don't have to feel guilty, but I don't know those other book doctors, so how do I know they'd do a good job? If you ever get over the mixing friends with business thing, sign me up, Girl!

Barbara Martin 2/21/2009 12:46:00 AM  

Whatever bad pixie dust did you breathe in? An editor can write too. An editor friend, edits, and writes his stories and poetry, and gets published. You just have to keep a firewall between the two. Michael is a freelance editor and works for some major publishing houses, and yet manages to find time to edit other writers' manuscripts and teach creative writing classes at university. If he can do this, so can you, Spy.

spyscribbler 2/21/2009 01:37:00 AM  

Robin, it does take a long time! When I've done it for friends, I have never taken as much time as I should. It takes me a long time to do it properly!

I wonder if that'll get better with practice. And boy, I'd love to edit your book! I love the laughs in your writing!

spyscribbler 2/21/2009 01:39:00 AM  

LOL, Barbara! That's funny! I believe an editor can write, too, of course! A lot of them do!

It's just that there's a number of pubs who really don't like their editors to write, and the one I'm looking at is one of them. So... you know. It's odd. :-)