Freelance Book Editor
by Caroline T
I’d like to preface by saying two things. First, that hiring a freelance book editor is not going to guarantee you will get published. Second, there are no hard and fast rules about how an editor should edit. I am sure that all editors work in different ways. To be clear, the information that I am sharing applies to me and only me. I am not speaking for other professionals in the freelance editing business.
I am a large canvas editor. I read with two hats on; my reader hat and my editor hat. I use my reactions on both levels to form suggestions for clients. I work only on hard copy with a regular blue pen. I react as I read and clients can often find scribbles in the margins. I do not censor these comments or try to sugar-coat a reaction if it happens to be negative. I do not believe that it makes sense to wear kid gloves while working for a client.
As any reader can tell you, I am looking for a great story. Something that hooks me, holds me and lures/lulls me, to a satisfying ending. I don’t follow a formula or have a checklist. I focus on the main characters; are they likable; are they believable; are the circumstances believable. I have no problem with an old plot with a new twist. I look for pacing. I hate clichés. I hate cop-outs. I focus on tense. I focus a lot on point of view. Are there too many at one time? Is reading like watching a tennis match? Am I with one character enough to get a grasp on that character or being moved onto someone else too quickly? Conflict is always a big issue for writers and seems to come up a lot in conversation. Does one character have something another character wants? If I am reading a love story, is there an obstacle that needs to be overcome? Does Life throw a believable curve ball at these folks?
Sometimes I do edit toward the market. Is it funny enough? Is it sexy enough? Is the police procedure creative? Is the puzzle hard to solve? Do I feel the jeopardy the character is in? Does the writer know where she/he would like this manuscript to end up? Is there an audience out there that might be the right one?
I prefer to complete two edits. The first is the big edit; the broad strokes. Once revisions have been done, I read again. Most times it is here that I focus on the nuts and bolts of grammar and such, though that is really not something I pay that much attention to. I don’t know how many freelancers offer two reads as part of their package. But I can’t see how one can consider a job finished without editing again.
I am not a writer. I do not have books on my desk about style and rules. I don’t pick up on dangling participles or esoteric rules.
I don’t focus on margin size, font size, etc. While I do always ask that manuscripts be double-spaced, the rest just isn’t on my radar. That all comes much later.
My job is to fix, enhance, suggest, support, listen, bring to light what may be hidden. Oftentimes, a bad idea can spark a better idea. Try this; how about that; move this here; make this person funnier. It’s the larger stuff that I focus on first. I don’t make big “x’s” through sections unless totally necessary. I like to have a free-flowing style…talk off the top of my head; listen to my initial reactions. I am not a creative writing teacher. I don’t offer classes. I fix books to the best of my ability and use my 20 years in the commercial fiction business to aid clients in any way I can.
I can and do consult on career paths. I can and do consult on agents. I try to steer clients in the right direction so they aren’t wasting valuable time. Sometimes I say, “you should put this one away and start a new one.” I’ve worked with a ton of authors at all different levels of experience. Most appreciate the honest and straightforward approach which is a signature of mine. I am not a hand-holder as anyone who knows me will tell you! Although any time a client needs to talk, I try to make myself available.
A freelance job for me is not a quick thing. It takes time. I try to work quickly as I know there is an anxiousness to get results and move forward. But sometimes it just doesn’t work that way. I fly by the seat of my pants a lot. I listen to my immediate reactions a lot, both positive and negative. I think of myself as an author’s editor rather than a company person (so to speak). Editing for me is a truly enjoyable thing. It was always the favorite part about my job when I was in Corporate America. I think of my work as entering into short-term partnerships; helping to create something, making it great and then patting it on the head and sending it on its way.