My Approach to Editing—What to Expect

Hello all! If you are interested in working with me—since you are reading this, I will assume that you are—I want to give you a peek into how I work as an editor so that you know what to expect and won’t feel overwhelmed or nervous to reach out. Sharing our creative work with anyone is nerve wrecking and maybe even more so when intentionally asking for someone’s feedback! What if they judge my experience? What if everything I poured onto paper is total garbage?? What if the pages return in a total bloodbath of marked errors with giant letters across the front that say, “You’re a terrible writer!”???

Whew. Deep breath.

First of all, I am not here to judge your experience. I am here to evaluate your writing and root out distractions that might pull a reader out of your story. Second of all, I am simply honored by the vulnerability it takes to share your story with me. That in itself is success, and you should be very proud. Writing can be painful, especially if you are sharing something personal or traumatic, so the fact that you’ve written anything at all is amazing. My goal is to take that writing and make sure your audience connects with it and doesn’t get distracted by any sneaky grammatical errors.

So what does that process look like? I’ve put together a little FAQ-style description of what you can expect when you’re considering working with me.

What’s going to happen when I contact you? When I first receive a message asking for editing work, I will ask you a series of questions about your work, your audience, and your goals for the project. I will also very likely ask you for a sample of the writing. This enables me to propose the right editing services and give you an accurate quote. If you feel uneasy about sending over your writing before deciding to pay for my services, have no fear; I won’t charge you anything unless we’ve both agreed in writing to a proposed set of terms, which will include a payment schedule. (I can also provide you with an NDA if you’d like.) Once I send back the editing sample, you have the opportunity to review my changes and decide if my style is a good fit for you.   

What kind of editing will you provide? It depends! You might have some preconceived notions of what an editor does; I certainly did before completing my Editing Certification. For example, did you know that there are various levels of editing? Some projects, particularly final drafts, just need a light copyedit to root out mechanical errors, these should come back to you with minimal markup and maybe some global queries about larger issues I noticed. Another type of editing is structural editing, which is often combined with a heavy copyedit or developmental edit. Structural editing helps you identify and adjust the flow of your story. Whether you are looking for a light-handed edit or a down-and-dirty structural developmental edit, we can work together to give you exactly the services you need. My favorite types of editing to provide are copyediting and line editing.

My voice is not always by-the-book grammatical. Are you going to change everything I wrote? Nope! I am, what is known in the editing world as, a descriptivist, meaning that I look at language how it is used, not necessarily what grammarians would call “correct.” If I notice a grammatical or spelling error that misleads the reader from your message, I will call it to your attention, but otherwise I leave your voice alone and do what I can to make it consistent throughout. For example, if you have a casual voice throughout your work but then you jump to a professional tone without warning and it distracts from your story, I will let you know so that you can rework it in your own voice.

What happens if I don’t like some of the changes you make to my manuscript? I think this is a valid concern and one that I certainly hope to avoid. I edit with the primary intention of maintaining your voice and your vision for the project. However, this is a possibility, particularly in line editing where I might be making larger changes. I am only human after all! If you feel that some of my edits don’t benefit your manuscript, you are always welcome to pick and choose which changes work for you. Some changes might be by-the-book best practices, and I might recommend them, but in the end, it is still your book and you do not have to accept any of my changes. This is also why a sample is helpful at the beginning of this process; you will see how I work and can let me know right away if you’d like me to edit with a lighter hand or if you’d like me to dig deeper.

If you have a piece of writing that you’ve been considering sending out into the world, or if you have a question that’s not answered here, let me know at lauren@scribeandsunshine.com.


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