Tuesday 19 April 2016

Editorial decisions

One of the joys of being a jobbing wordsmith is that I never know what is going to turn up next. At the moment, I'm working on two children's fiction books, which is a bit of a departure for me. I have, though, made it clear to both authors that I shall be reading with a sub's eye, and am not equipped to input anything regarding structure and so on that a 'proper' fiction editor might, beyond elements that any mother or reader would notice.

This is an important distinction. When clients come to me with a project and they ask me to proofread it, I always ask them to clarify what they think that means. Do they want me to mark only spelling mistakes and punctuation slips, or would they like me to look for consistency, syntax howlers and plain old mistakes? My hourly rate is the same, whatever they want. I'm using the same brain, after all. The brief needs to be clear, though, or I could waste my time or overstep the mark - and the bill could be much higher than expected.

Likewise, if I'm asked to edit something. Does this mean spelling, grammar, consistency, formatting to style, fact-checking: how far am I to go? The best customers are those who give me free rein to fix anything I notice: the worst are those who assure me the text is 'pretty much OK', only for me to discover it's actually a bit of a nightmare.

Back to the children's books. The one I'm working on today has been read by many of the author's supportive friends and relatives who have all made (mostly encouraging) suggestions. It has also been shown to a librarian and I have seen the comments she has made, which are very incisive, as might be expected. What interests me is that she has only remarked on the story and not the writing, which is where I come in, I suppose.


  1. What a fascinating job that must be. I confess to making corrections in books I read, even if they are library books. I corrected a Wtiters' Forum short story today where the author had written 'was sat' instead of 'was sitting'. I come across this one so often I wonder if it has become acceptable.

    1. So I had better correct my 'Writers' Forum.'