Why editors can – and should – keep writing

Graphophobia - fear of writing. Image source: WeirdPhobia.com

Did you know this is a real thing? Woah!
Image source: WeirdPhobia.com

I recently interviewed for a position at a great publishing house (the dream job – ah!).

As the head editors were interviewing me, at one point, they said:

“So, it says here that you are also a writer?”

“Yes, absolutely; I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen. My first words were literally, ‘Book’ and ‘Read’. I wrote my first ‘book’ when I was four years old. ‘The Adventures of Freddy Fish’.”

“Wow!” said one.

“How do you do that?” asked the other.

I was surprised. “Um, I just love writing. It’s why I became an editor at all; I love reading and writing and I just want to make stories better wherever I can.”

“Wow,” said the first again. “I don’t think I could write anything anymore. Probably ever.”

“I haven’t read a book for fun in years, let alone written one.”

“Yeah, I mean, you’re reading other peoples’ writing all day, it just gets… It would be completely intimidating now to try and write something of my own. Because I know what it’s like, who’s going to be reading what I write. I’m used to sitting on this side of the desk now.”

“I don’t think I could take the rejection. Writers are very brave, I think.”

“Well, thank you,” I said.

And we moved on. Phew!

My point…

Editors are afraid to write because of their inner editors – just like normal writers. But we shouldn’t be, whether we’re a writer or an editor!

'Fear'. Image source: Kathy Coatney and Lisa Sorensen via Jean Oram via fellow blogger Jodie Llewellyn’s blog:

Image source: Kathy Coatney and Lisa Sorensen
via Jean Oram
via fellow blogger Jodie Llewellyn’s blog post

Whether you’re a writer or an editor, you should also be an editor and a writer. (Ooh, see what I did there?)

Writer, I really hope you’re self-editing your stuff before you show it around to people. Otherwise, I’m sorry, but you’re probably a really really poor writer. Sad face. 😦

And Editor, I really hope that you read and write as well. Otherwise, you just don’t know what it’s like for us writers. You don’t know what it took to get our babies – I mean, books – out of our heads and into the world, so you don’t treat our babies – books! (Wow, that keeps happening!) – as kindly as you could.

(Hey, if you could use the extra push, why not use NaNoWriMo to get you writing again this month? It’s fun!)

Editors in big firms and magazines don’t usually have time to write, I know, if you want to have any kind of home life and actually speak to your family once a day. You work long hours at the office and you don’t always get home for dinner. But J.K. Rowling was a waitress supporting her kids as a single mum when she wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, so not having enough time is not really a good excuse.

If you want to write, you don’t have time to write; you make time to write.

For more info, the Department of English at Florida Atlantic University pointed me to this great post, ‘Who edits the editors?’ by Mark Medley, which talks about famous editors who have become published authors. Cordite Poetry Review even published a poetry collection, Editorial Intervention, entirely made up of the poems written by poetry editors.

So, in summary, writers, take a deep breath and get to that self-editing; editors, be bold and get writing again. As the great Mark Twain once said:

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

'Just Write'. Image source: Trent M Kays on Rhetorical Rumination

Image source: Trent M Kays on Rhetorical Rumination

 

 

Writers, how do you get past your fear and start editing your own work? Editors, how do you get past your fear and start writing?

 

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2014. Reblogging is highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

Semantic satiation: Don’t kill your reader

Recently I was editing a novel where the author had used the “text method” of writing. I don’t mean that they included texts in their story. I mean that they wrote “dont” instead of “don’t”.

So I’ve just spent an hour straight hitting “Ctrl+F” (Find and Replace) to fix the variations of “dont” that have appeared throughout the story. I’ve literally looked at the same one word over and over, to the point where the correct word, “don’t”, doesn’t even seem like a real word anymore.

Dont.

Dont’.

Donnt.

Donut…? (Mmmmm, donuts… *immediately breaks diet*)

I was telling a well-educated friend of mine about it and he told me that this is called semantic satiation. (Not to be confused with Semantic Saturation, the progressive rock metal band.)

Semantic satiation is the proper term for when you’ve been looking at a word for so long that it loses its meaning to you and just looks weird. It happens because the neurons that are responsible for that word are temporarily worn out from overuse. But what can I do about it?

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Is that a real word?

P.L. Travers (played by Emma Thompson) with the scriptwriter and songwriters responsible for the Disney movie version of Mary Poppins

P.L. Travers (played by Emma Thompson) with the scriptwriter and songwriters responsible for the Disney movie version of Mary Poppins
Image Source: Robert Deluce

Richard Sherman: Room here for everyone / Gather around / The constable’s “responstible”! / Now how does that sound?

P.L. Travers: No, no, no, no, no! “Responstible” is not a word!

Richard Sherman: We made it up.

P.L. Travers: Well, un-make it up.

Richard Sherman: [Hides sheet music of ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’.]

Scene from Saving Mr. Banks

 

I edited a book once by an author who used words wrong.  Just plain wrong.  There’s no other way to say it.

He said “supposably” and “supposedly” (those aren’t real words!) instead of “suspiciously” (which is not even close to the meaning of those “words”).

When I called him on it the first few times, he got all snippy.  “How do you know what’s a real word and what isn’t?  I hear people saying ‘supposably’ all the time.”

“Um, that’s my job.  I get paid to know correct grammar and spelling.  And that’s honestly not a real word.  And even if it was a real word now, which it’s not, it’s still not a word that a peasant would have used in medieval times.”

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Weird Al parody song teaches grammar – not even kidding, y’all

Weird Al just released a parody of ‘Blurred Lines’ (uh-huh, that catchy song that gets stuck in your head so easily) called ‘Word Crimes’.  In this beautiful video – using beautifully-animated flowing word graphics, I might add – he explains the basic rules of grammar that, like, everyone, like, gets wrong these days?

All I can say is:

Woohoo!

I laughed so hard I cried. And it’s all correct, as far as I can see!

Oh, Al. I’m so proud.

Teachin’ y’all how to conjugate…

 

If you can’t view this video, visit TIME Magazine’s link to it:

http://time.com/2988041/let-weird-al-teach-you-about-grammar-in-his-new-blurred-lines-parody/

 

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2014. Reblogging is highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

Pros and cons of being a freelancer

Everyone has their own assumptions about what it’s like to be a freelancer.

 

Here’s what it is like for me and for the friends I know who are freelancers:

 

Pros Cons
I set my own schedule.I can take a break when I need to. I set my own schedule.That means I become a workaholic, working 6 days a week when I can because I know I need money for the weeks when I don’t have work.
I negotiate my own contracts and pay. Because I negotiate my own pay, I sometimes end up being paid “mate’s rates”.
I work from home or at my local library, so I’m more comfortable than in someone else’s workplace.I get to work in my PJs while listening to music! I work from home.I don’t get to “go in to the office”. I have to be responsible for my own time.I have to make sure my internet is reliable.
I get to choose my own contracts. I am constantly searching for new contracts.As outsourcing becomes more common, there are fewer contracts that pay a standard Australian rate.
I get to take a lunch break with friends. I can’t just “duck out” to take lunch with my friends who work in the city – there’s travel time involved.
Clients are sometimes unreliable when it comes to paying you or providing you with the right files to work with.

 

If you’re new to the creative workplace, what have been your experiences so far?

And if you need an editor for your novel, children’s book, memoir, textbook, website, company newsletter, or “other”, please let me know! Visit my freelance services page for more details on my services and to get in touch. I’d love to hear from you!

View my rates for editing, copywriting, or proofreading, on my Freelance Services page!

View my rates for editing, copywriting, or proofreading, on my Freelance Services page!

 

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2013. Reblogging is highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

What does an editor do?

View my rates for editing, copywriting, or proofreading, on my Freelance Services page!

View my rates for editing, copywriting, or proofreading, on my Freelance Services page!

People often ask me what the difference between proofreading and editing is, or why editing is not just called rewriting.

Some of my pointers here are drawn from what IPEd (the Institute of Professional Editors Limited, Australia’s national editing association) says to authors about how to tell your editor what you need, but most of it is drawn from this year’s experience running my own freelance business as an editor / proofreader (TJ Withers-Ryan).

Step 1: There are three types of “editing”:

1. Proofreading – spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Have you any words out? Are there any typos like eextra letters? Fixing formatting errors like weird italicisation.

2. Copy editing – the line-by-line level, rewriting bad sentences. Does each sentence make sense? Does the author have any *annoying* mannerisms, technical jargon, or other bumps in the road that is their writing? Includes cross-checking facts and figures mentioned. This takes longer but is still pretty straightforward.

3. Structural editing – the story as a whole. Does each chapter have a point to it? Are the characters acting in a way that is consistent with the plot and their own motivations? This takes ages.

So, first, you need to tell your editor what type of editing you need them to do.

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