I have been somewhat lax in taking on freelance editing work over the last few months, between that big thing called life, full-time work, and juggling fitness and various hobbies, I’ve frankly been a bit busy. That being said, I’m now jumping back on board as it really is something that I love and find (strangely) therapeutic. That’s because I’m inherently compulsive about correcting people, much to the chagrin of my friends to whom that quality is probably highly irritating.
Of course, once I’m knee-deep in a project, that’s when the therapy ends and I want to jump in front of oncoming traffic, because of the flagrant abuse of commas, split infinitives and prolific use of ‘would ofs’ rather than ‘would haves’. It’s enough to send anyone mad.
So in reflecting upon such things, I thought I’d share some insights into the secret lives of editors, those people behind the scenes who help to shape (some more than others) and craft the wonderful books we read each day.
- No one else will quite understand why you get so highly strung about hyphens versus em dashes or en dashes. Or a proper ellipses for that matter. But after spending hours combing through a 300 page manuscript riddled with these problems – which, damn you CTRL+F, will never be found easily – your rage will certainly be evident.
- Accept that 90% of the time an author will state they only need a proof-reader when, in fact, their novel is riddled with plot holes and they do actually want you to fix them. But proofreading and copy-editing and developmental editing are all the same thing, right? No. No, they aren’t.
- You judge restaurants eternally for the typos in their menus. Vagitarian spring rolls? I think not.
- I’ve never given birth, and in fact am mildly terrified of children, but handing over a final edit of a manuscript, and seeing it get published is probably on par with the experience. Hours of excruciating torture, resulting in something small, and which you feel certain has part of your DNA.
- There are great aspects too, like working with an amazing author who you totally get and feeling like a dream team.
- Friends and family will ask you to indulge in your OCD ways and proofread papers/assignments and various other things for them. And secretly you don’t mind at all.
- Except when you practically rewrite the whole thing and they get an A and you get an ‘Oh, thanks for that’.
- You acknowledge that just as the world couldn’t survive without bees, neither could it survive without correctly placed commas. They help to avoid things like this:
- You have to triple check text messages to friends and Facebook status updates, because there is at least one person who will never let you live it down.
- Editing fantasy novels is hard. Even after three coffees it’s sometimes difficult to discern whether what you’re reading is actual prose or, in fact, the result of the author banging his/her fists against the keyboard in a moment of rage. Aksparaxis of the Smelhagahnir. Hmm.
- When you’re on deadline and all you can think about is wine or bed. Wine in bed, perhaps?
- You get seriously excited about a project that isn’t a dystopian young adult novel about a reluctant heroine called Catnip rallying against government regimes, a BDSM tale of love between a meek woman and a handsome but damaged billionaire who built his fortune by doing precisely nothing, or a memoir about someone who has nothing noteworthy to say except for having a great love of cats.
- Trying to delicately suggest an alternative plot twist that doesn’t border on creepy and perverted. This makes me wonder how much of the aforementioned wine-in-bed Stephanie Meyer’s editor had while working on Breaking Dawn…
- Microsoft Word’s spell check knows nothing. Fact.
- You can switch from using British to US English conventions and back again without giving it a second thought.
- But editing a manuscript from a native English speaker (who therefore has no valid excuse), which confusingly alternates between the two – hello author, where the f#@% did you learn English – makes you want to give up altogether.
- You get stressed out by Twitter’s character restriction, which almost never allows for proper grammar.
- Editing super detailed and awkward sex scenes while sipping a latte at your local café, and praying the old lady with the judgy stare isn’t reading from over your shoulder.
- All those times you get queries about a project, for which the proposed rate of pay is enough that you can buy a can of peas after 20 hours of work.
- It’s worth it when you get a really sweet thank you email from your client, which makes all of the above fade into nothing. Until you open your next manuscript and the first sentence begins with some variation of ‘It was a dark and stormy night…’