Mid-Year Update

July 1 marked the halfway point of 2019, so I thought it would be a good time to take stock of my freelance work so far this year. Professionally, it’s been a very rewarding year for me, and I hope the trend continues this summer and fall.

Here are a few highlights from the first half of 2019:

  • I continue to write articles for Healthline, an online medical and wellness website. So far my most-read article of 2019 is “Bleeding After Hysterectomy: Is It Normal & When to Call a Doctor” with 52,924 user sessions. My articles range from these very detailed medical articles to topics that are a little less intense like “Why Is Water Important? 16 Reasons to Drink Up.” I just finished an article called “Is My Baby Having Night Terrors?” and I hope it is helpful to parents.
  • I am now collaborating with a few new clients. One client has hired me to write case studies to help a company market products in the higher education field. I have also found new clients via Reedsy and have been helping authors with their works on gestational diabetes, jazz, and instrument tuning (so far). I always say that I love my job because I come into contact with and learn about such diverse material. It’s a great fit for a lifelong reader and learner!
  • I still edit several academic journals each year. I have now copyedited several issues of the Bulletin for Research on Music Education, the Journal of Animal Ethics, Process Studies, and Jazz and Culture. The work going on in these fields is fascinating.

In addition to these highlights, I wrapped up a long-term ghostwriting collaboration with someone, copyedited/proofread a few upcoming trade books, and used my permissions-acquiring skills with a large medical-educational publisher.

Please let me know if there is anything I can help you finish as the year enters its second half.

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Do I Need a Writer, an Editor, or Someone Else?

If you are unfamiliar with the publishing process, you may wonder how a writer, editor, copyeditor, or proofreader can help you. I have worked on projects in all of these roles, and here’s my brief overview of how they serve a publication.

Writer: You may need a writer if you have a lot of ideas but you can’t seem to get them down on paper. A writer can take your stream-of-consciousness thoughts or interview you to create the document you intend to publish. That may be a website, a book, or something else. Writers can also create documents with prompts you give them or a research topic to investigate. I write for many different clients and some of my projects have included writing articles, ghostwriting books or blog posts, summarizing case studies, and more.

Editor: This is a very general title and I would lean toward putting the word “developmental” in front of the title as it concerns an individual seeking help. This person can look at your work so far and give you ideas of how to reshape or retool it to meet your intended audience. A developmental editor can also help you work on flow and ask probing questions to help you dig deeper into your document. At a publishing house, an editor may also be a managing or acquiring editor. A managing editor coordinates all aspects of the publishing process and an acquiring editor finds content to publish.

Copyeditor: This person will copyedit a document that is in very good shape and almost ready for publication. This person uses a style book or style guide (and a dictionary!) to correct grammar, usage, and style errors. A copyeditor may also point out sentences that need clarification or suggest adding headings to improve readability. A copyeditor will also format references in a bibliography or notes section as well as inquire about permissions for artwork or long passages that you borrowed from another source. Your copyeditor may also be willing to fact-check a document if you request it.

Proofreader: A proofreader looks at a nearly published document usually set in its final form. A proofreader will only correct egregious errors like misspellings or the odd (or missing) punctuation mark. The proofreader ensures that everything looks clean and tidy to avoid embarrassing mistakes appearing in the final publication.

There are of course other roles in publishing like typesetters, designers, agents, reviewers, fact-checkers, translators, and more. Before you get too far with your work, however, consider whether you need one (or more) of these types of people involved in your document. Feel free to contact me to chat about your project, and I can provide you with an assessment of what I think you need.

Writing Is Magic

I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Gilbert is of course the author of the mega-hit Eat Pray Love. I enjoyed this other book by her even more than the bestseller. Her take on the creative process can be helpful for writers as well as for those in other creative fields or for those who just enjoy being creative.

If you are thinking about publishing something or are already part of the world, some of Gilbert’s observations and advice could be quite helpful. I’d recommend you read this book.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

On the creativity that lives within you and how to get it into the world:

And you have treasures hidden within you — extraordinary treasures — and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing these treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think small. (p. 27)

On getting over perfectionism:

We must understand that drive for perfectionism is a corrosive waste of time, because nothing is ever beyond criticism. (p. 169)

On actually producing something creative (and not just tinkering forever!):

You do what you can do, as competently as possible within a reasonable time frame, and then you let it go. (p. 177)

On curiosity:

Curiosity is the truth and the way of creative living. (p. 237)

Treading Lightly

Recently, I read The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller. Saller is a copyeditor at the University of Chicago Press, home of the celebrated stylebook, now in its seventeenth edition. She also manages the question and answer feature on the stylebook’s website, which has been a huge resource to me over the years. I’ve followed happenings at the University of Chicago for quite some time — since the fourteenth edition!

I wholeheartedly agree with Saller’s take on copyediting and the Chicago philosophy in general. One of the sentences in the opening pages of the book sums it up perfectly:

Your first goal isn’t to slash and burn your way through [the manuscript] in an effort to make it conform to a list of style rules. (p. 7)

Unless you want someone to change your work radically (which I would suggest is substantive editing, not copyediting), this lighter and sensible approach to copyediting should put you at ease. When you hand over a manuscript for copyediting, you feel the work is in pretty good shape and that it needs some fact-checking and smoothing (and, in many cases, formatting help for references and bibliographies).

So remember that unless you are submitting an article for a publication with strict guidelines or your work needs a lot of retooling, the copyediting process should be pretty gentle.

2018 by the Numbers

Before the clock strikes midnight tonight, I wanted to reflect on my freelance work this year. Thanks to a lot of great clients, I have worked on many different types of projects for the last 12 months. Without further ado, here is my year by the numbers:

  • 36 articles written for Healthline
  • 13 permissions projects managed (a handful with 100+ permissions needed)
  • 12 journal manuscripts copyedited
  • 6 books copyedited or proofread
  • 5 projects completed in my “other” category, including ghostwriting, copywriting, writing coaching, and more

I’ve used The Chicago Manual of Style, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, and the MLA Handbook this year, as well as many other house style guides.

Thanks to everyone who has made this year successful for Silver Scribe Editorial Services. Truly, I am grateful for the work and your support!

 

Thoughts on Copyediting from a Pro

I just finished reading Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris, a longtime copyeditor at The New Yorker. Her book is a memoir/reference hybrid, combining lovely anecdotes about her life as well as grammar lessons. Some passages in the book resonated with me, especially those about the role of a copyeditor:

On the purpose of copyediting:

The whole point of having things read before publication is to test their effect on a general reader. You want to make sure when you go out there that the tag on the back of your collar isn’t poking up–unless, of course, you are deliberately wearing your clothes inside out. (p. 36)

On what writers think of copyeditors:

Writers might think we’re applying rules and sticking it to their prose in order to make it fit some standard, but just as often we’re backing off, making exceptions, and at least trying to find a balance between doing too much and doing too little. (p. 38)

And on why copyeditors will always be important, despite technology improving:

Because English has so many words of foreign origin, and words that look the same but mean something different depending on their context, and words that are in flux, opening and closing like flowers in time-lapse photography, the human element is especially important if we are to stay on top of the computers, which, in their determination to do our  job for us, make decisions so subversive that even professional wordsmiths are taken by surprise. (p. 113)

Finally, Mary’s enthusiasm of pencils (especially soft-leaded no. 1 pencils!) is particularly endearing in the chapter “Ballad of a Pencil Junkie.” In this penultimate chapter, she also remarks on her lacking handwriting (“I’d had complaints about it since third grade,” p. 171) and shares an interesting observation about those with neat handwriting: “Later, as a graduate student, teaching comprehension, I noted that the student with the neatest handwriting often wrote the dullest prose” (p. 172). The quote reminds me to be gentler on my own children with their sometimes-sloppy (often-sloppy?) handwriting.

This delightful book about the editing life is the twenty-sixth book I’ve read this year for pleasure (only four more to go to meet my goal for the year!). It does not count the hundreds (probably thousands) of pages I have read for work. Nothing makes me happier than sinking my teeth into a new subject or work. I am thankful that I’ve been able to make reading a hobby and a career.

Looking Back and Planning for What’s to Come

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My morning coffee and a current copyediting project. Rival styles though–Chicago vs. APA.

Five years ago, I started this freelance business to accommodate the needs of my family better. I had been a managing editor at a book publisher for eight years, which was a dream job. But I longed to have more flexibility in my life and spend more time at home with my little kids. I took a bold leap in May 2013 and left my amazing job to become a freelance editor and writer. It’s been a great decision.

Next week, both of my kids head to full-time school for the first time. This is, of course, an emotional milestone, but I am excited to keep editing and writing and have even more time to build this business. Thank you to everyone who has supported me and given me work over the years. And please keep the work coming!