I’ve recently returned to my editing projects after a couple of days at Adelaide Writers’ Week, the event I enjoy most in SA’s crazy festival season. Writers’ Week is a great chance to see and talk to the best of local and visiting authors, editors and publishers — and I have to say, I’m proud of how SA’s publishing community has represented itself this year, from Adelaide novelist Hannah Kent talking about her novel Burial Rites to adoptive Adelaidean and Writers’ Week Director Laura Kroetsch leading a discussion about readerships (the last session I attended and probably the one I enjoyed the most).
So far, so brilliant. However, I must admit that a couple of festival-goers asked me questions that I wished they hadn’t: ‘Do SA publishers do much publishing, then?’ and its cousin ‘Is there much editing to do in Adelaide?’ Of course, we have many highly professional people making great publishing, right alongside our energetic local authors. Read on, then, for a celebration of SA’s publishing talent, inspired by all the good folks who contributed to Writers’ Week this year.
Tag Archives: Writing and Editing
I’m delighted to introduce a guest post by Marisa Wikramanayake. Many Aussie editors will know Marisa as a dynamic and experienced journalist, writer, and editor, based in Western Australia. I worked with Marisa at last month’s IPEd national editors’ conference, as I furiously typed my conference blog posts from various corners of the venue and she was seemingly everywhere at once. Marisa hugely impressed me with her energy and sheer determination to get things not just done, but done right. It turns out that Marisa’s path to writing and editing has been eventful and has shaped her distinctive journalistic voice and editorial approach. Over to Marisa.
So I helped organise this conference and Katy was there, blogging about it, as one does. When I said ‘I want to guest post!’ she said ‘Awesome! Tell me why and how you manage to be so positive? You seem so calm about everything’. Calm. Oh dear. Calm, she says. Positive, she says. OK, Katy, let me tell you all about it then. The simple answer is that I have a few secret weapons.
Editor friends sometimes ask me ‘How come you’re brave enough to blog about editing?’ It’s a good question. Blogging about editing involves putting yourself out there, expressing an opinion, accepting that others may not agree. It also demands creative thinking about the work, which is something I love doing even after 10+ years in the profession. There is always so much more to find out about, adopt, and develop in your practice.
So, my view is that blogging about editing is great because, in a small way, it contributes to the big-picture conversation about the contribution editors make to publishing in Australia and overseas. PublishEd Adelaide is my way of communicating about what editing means to me – and I hope the questions I ask here may get others thinking about what it means to them, too.
So, here’s a quick question for you: how are you communicating with others about editing?
Great editorial communication, happy clients
Maybe you’re great at talking with prospective clients about what editing involves, or you have converted a reluctant author into a champion of the editing process. Good for you! You’re helping to make editing a practical reality for the people who provide our bread-and-butter work. Editing can be a scary, or at least an opaque, process for many authors, until it’s explained or demonstrated well.
Little kindnesses that make a difference
Perhaps you connect with your community through pro bono or paid work for organisations you care about, or edit the work of friends, family, and others. You’re a generous sort, I can see. The individual contributions that editors make in their personal time can help people who, perhaps, don’t deal every day with material that needs editing, but still need high-quality material that stands up to detailed reading. This is communication in the sense of one-on-one, locally meaningful conversations about editing — and those individual conversations count for a lot.
Writing about your experiences
Finally, maybe you’re like me: you love to write about editing, and want to encourage people to think deeply about what it is editors do. Blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, and of course writing more formally about editing are all contributions to the growing profile of editors around Australia. Let’s go ahead and demystify the process all we can, and let others know that editing isn’t an obscure art: it’s a discipline and a way – actually, ways – of thinking about writing. And let’s talk to each other about where we think the profession is heading; how editors can contribute even more in the future.
All of these are great ways to spread the word about what editors do, and why editing is so important. There are no doubt many other ways to do it – and I’d love to hear how you choose to communicate with others about your work.
Until next time, happy editing and publishing.
Let me start by saying that ANZLitLovers LitBlog is the best blog about words in Australia – and that’s official! It has just won the Best Australian Blogs Competition 2012 for the Words group — congratulations, Lisa! Over the course of the competition, I have got to know Lisa and her blog, and I have to say that ANZLitLovers is now a firm fixture on my daily tour of blogs about writing and publishing.
Coincidentally, Lisa has just published a guest post that I wrote, all about the tricky matter of judging the right length for a book. If you’d like to check it out, you can find it at www.anzlitlovers.com. Because Lisa’s such a measured but compassionate reader of contemporary Australian and New Zealand writing, it’s all the sweeter to have her accept a post of mine for the blog. I hope you like what I’ve written — if so, why not add your voice to this exciting blog and tell Lisa what you think?
Happy editing and publishing, until next time.
This week, in a neat little bit of timing, Louise Harnby and I published each other’s guest posts on our blogs!
Louise writes about her growing confidence in saying no to editing projects (a skill that takes time: what if the work runs out?). In my guest post, I talk about some of the pros and cons of making the transition from British to Aussie editing (more pros than cons, you’ll be glad to see).
My post is now up at The Proofreader’s Parlour – do drop by. Louise has masses of useful links, resources, and commentary on the blog, too. Recommended.
Louise’s post is currently on the home page at PublishEd, or you can click here. Enjoy!
With more than 1000 blogs in the competition, and loads of fantastic ‘Words and Writing’ sites in the same category as PublishEd, I wasn’t at all sure how my small-but-growing blog would fare. After all (if you’ll forgive me for borrowing from two of my significant life experiences) I’ve been writing for slightly less time than it takes to have a baby and slightly more time than it takes to graduate from probation in a publishing house. All I know is that I love writing about editing and publishing and I’m glad to have the chance to reach more editing-minded readers through this great competition.
I’m honoured (a lot) and nervous (in a good way) to be in the company of the fantastic blogs which have also made the short list. And I just had to look up ‘short list’ in Macquarie. (It would be bad to get the spelling wrong on such an august occasion, right?)
If you want to get an immediate hit of wordy inspiration, I highly recommend you check out some of the other blogs in the competition, which you can do at the ‘Finalists’ page on the competition website. You can follow the news from the comp at #bestblogs2012, and I’m tweeting about what’s happening too (@katymcdevitt).
Thanks for your support and visits and I’ll update you when I know more…
A guest post by Louise Harnby, a UK-based publishing professional with many years’ experience in proofreading and editing. Louise’s blog, The Proofreader’s Parlour, is a great spot for all sorts of guidance, opinion, and resources about professional editing issues. I found Louise’s blog not long ago and we struck up a conversation — discovering, in the course of swapping posts, that we share some life/work values – particularly that, like many other editors, we’re juggling work and kids and trying to find the right mix of fascinating work and family time. Here, Louise talks about how you know when you’re ready to say no to new work for a while. It’s worth learning how to do. Over to Louise…
A UK colleague recently delighted her Facebook friends by announcing that after many years of hard graft she’d finally earned a liveable wage and felt comfortable describing herself as a professional editor. After she’d posted her news she became concerned that she might have sounded smug – not at all, we all said. On the contrary, her fellow freelancers were delighted that she’d achieved this goal and felt that “newbies” would be encouraged to continue on their journey.
It made me reflect on my own situation over the past few weeks. Getting to a point where you have a regular flow of work from a group of reliable clients is a true watershed in editorial freelancing. I’ve worked hard since 2005 to get my proofreading business up and running, and enjoyed the thrill of saying yes when a job offer hits my email inbox… so hard in fact that saying no has become a challenge.
Here in the UK the kids have just had a couple of weeks off school for Easter. My eight-year-old was ready for the break. So was I – I’d been flat out with work for the past three months. But I was offered a couple of proofreading projects from one client, and then another publisher offered me one more. My response? Yes, yes, yes.
With the small one at home, I had to work in the evenings. This is something I’m perfectly happy to do if needs be. As long as I’m strict about a reasonable cut-off time, and providing I get the lighting set up properly, it doesn’t present a challenge for me once in a while. And anyway, the work I’d been offered was interesting…
Well, sort of interesting. It depends on what you’re comparing it with. Saying yes meant two weeks of running around with young children, then hastily stuffing my dinner in my mouth before settling down to a few hours’ proofreading every night, when I could have spent my evenings relaxing with my husband, snuggled up on the sofa with the Labrador, watching our latest batch of DVDs. And hadn’t I been ready for a break?
Somewhere along the road of multi-tasking, choice-making, and work/life balancing, I have rendered myself dysfunctional in the “no” stakes. I remember why I always said yes back at the start of my freelance career – it wasn’t so much the money as the desire to be seen as a “call worth making” to my new clients. Let’s ask Louise – she’s reliable; she’s available; she always says yes. That’s how I built up my business and I didn’t want to slip off the radar.
This week my daughter is back at school. The precious routine of doing the school drop-off, walking the dog and knuckling down to the day’s proofreading before my chirpy girl walks through the door at 3.30 pm is back in place.
I chose freelance work back in 2005 because it offered me the opportunity to make choices about when and how I worked. No office job could match the deal. But lately I’ve been so busy saying yes that I’ve failed to achieve the “how and when” choices that underpinned my original goals. I need to shift the balance. I understand that some freelancers can’t afford to lose these valuable weeks of income; I recognize that due to the nature of their client base this isn’t an option for everyone. But it is an option for me – I set out on this very journey because of that fact. Indeed, my entire business plan was premised on it. My client base is now established enough that I can stay on the radar if I take a few weeks’ vacation throughout the year. The realm of “no” beckons, and I need to heed its calling.
Louise Harnby is a UK-based freelance proofreader with 22 years’ publishing experience. Her clients are primarily academic publishing houses specializing in the social sciences and humanities, though she also works in the trade sector on fiction and commercial non-fiction. She trained with the London-based Publishing Training Centre and is a member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Louise hosts The Proofreader’s Parlour, a blog that offers information, advice, opinion, comment, tips, resources and knowledge sharing on proofreading and editing.
The Australian blog world (blog nation?) is going crazy about the Sydney Writers’ Centre’s Best Australian Blogs 2012 Competition (#bestblogs2012). It’s got me thinking about the blogs I visit all the time and why they’re great.
PublishEd Adelaide is in the competition in the ‘Words and Writing’ category this year, which Angela Meyer (@literaryminded) is judging. Most blogs are also up for a People’s Choice Award and, if you like what I’m writing here, you too can vote (there’s an enormous blue button right next to this post!). If you do, a massive ‘thank you’ for your time and enthusiasm.
Of course, I’d love people to vote for PublishEd, but the competition is also a great opportunity to explore what other bloggers are writing about and to reach out to new readers. If you’re a regular here, you’ll know that this is one of the themes I obsess about: to build deeper understanding of your life in editing, you’d better be ready to talk to other people!
In the spirit of spreading the love, here are a few recommendations for blogs I read all the time. (Keeping in the spirit, you’ll find one blog by a current Aussie resident and one by a Brit who lived in Australia until recently!)
Jane Friedman. Jane Friedman is, as far as I know, not Australian. However, she is a key influence for people who think about the future of publishing. Yeah, I know – everybody’s writing about that. But Jane has been doing it longer and is really good at it. Why? Because, for all that she’s clearly a gifted analyst, she writes like a normal human. She certainly comes across as an expert – and as a former acquisitions editor, editor of Writer’s Digest, university professor, and now web editor, she’s definitely a polymath with broad and deep experience. But she doesn’t put herself out there as knowing it all – more, she wants to find out. My kind of publishing thinker. I visit her blog whenever she posts. You should too.
Brain Traffic. The people at Brain Traffic are astounding. Confident, focused, and just a tiny bit brass-ballsy, they’re all about content strategy. Before I discovered the work of Kristina Halvorson and her colleagues, I hadn’t given much thought to content strategy. But that’s all changed. Content strategy, for me, is a powerful way to bring together the focus and drive of publishing strategy with the attention to detail of hands-on editing. I love the idea of it and I want to do more of it in my work. Oh, and although everyone writing about content strategy talks about web content, it isn’t just about that. I think content strategy is actually most powerful when you apply it across media – something that many publishers need to know how to do. I read a tweet this week from someone at London Book Fair (sorry, can’t remember who – too much going on/brain snap), which said that publishing is thriving but many people are still ‘in transition’ – embracing ‘e’ in their planning but still publishing in mixed media. Getting in on content strategy now could help with that transition.
The Creative Penn. The British ‘author-entrepreneur’ Joanna Penn writes thrillers and loves the world of self-publishing and indie publishing. That passion carries through everything she writes, and you can’t help but pick up some of her good thinking in your work. I’m not a fiction person (I read it but don’t write it, don’t edit it) but still, I find the blog compelling. I think that’s because what Joanna is writing about is actually embracing the creative life that publishing can offer. She’s recently moved from her adopted home in Australia back to the UK, where she’s pursuing her writing activities full time (and ‘blogging the journey’ of her writing adventures too). At core, there’s an unshakeable belief in the value of writing and in the entrepreneurial spirit that makes the difference between an author who ‘wants to’ and an author who ‘does’.
Joanna also believes in great editing and hosts bloggers who share that belief – Matt Gartland’s post this week on a ‘new breed’ of professional editor, working with an entrepreneurial mindset, is fascinating.
The Subversive Copyeditor. When I’m feeling fed up with copy editing – yes, it does happen – I visit Carol Fisher Saller at The Subversive Copy Editor (I’m going to review her blog-to-book collection, Moonlight Blogger, very soon). Carol is something of a copy-editorial star, as the editor behind the Chicago Manual of Style’s Q&As. Does that mean she cares about comma placement and the thousands of other style issues CMOS tackles? Absolutely. Is she pedantic? Never. Carol writes with the confidence of an editor who knows her stuff and – even more importantly – is great at talking about it. Everything she writes is grounded in expertise but not stilted by it. An inspirational copy editor? So she does exist. Hurray for Carol Fisher Saller.
Hang on, where are the Aussie blogs? Of course! I couldn’t finish up without an Aussie blog. The winner of last year’s Best Australian Blogs stoush in the Words category: Bothersome Words. The blog has been fairly quiet recently (due to the demands of what its author calls ‘Real Life’), but it’s still worth checking out because it’s so damned sensible about editing. The Bothersome editor not only loves the work but, as if after my own heart, wants to talk about editing too. If you visit, be sure to check out the extensive footnotes (the fine art of footnoting with humour).
So there you go. I appreciate people who share their expertise in writing, editing, and publishing wherever they are, and it’s great that the Sydney Writers’ Centre is once again recognising the creativity Australian writers put into their blogs about words. I hope you visit the folks I’ve talked about here, and that you enjoy their writing: if you do, why not tell them? And don’t forget, you can vote for your favourite Australian blog, even if you don’t live in Australia. You can find out more at Twitter (#bestblogs2012) and vote at the People’s Choice Award website.
Next week: Louise Harnby of The Proofreader’s Parlour on learning to say no to freelance work. Honestly, it can be done!
If you want to be a successful editor, at some point you’ll be working with authors. There’s no getting around it. The ability to manage that creative but often highly complex relationship is one of the essential skills editors need. It’s right up there with being able to wield a red pen or work in Word. Yet working with authors is one of the most challenging aspects of editing practice.
I find this in my own work and am always keen to improve my collaborative skills. So, when I learnt that Barbara Sjoholm’s An Editor’s Guide to Working with Authors has just come out on Kindle I snapped it up. An Editor’s Guide draws on 18 years of editing wisdom developed at Seattle-based Author-Editor Clinic, which Sjoholm runs (alongside a very active writing life). The clinic supports practising developmental editors, and guides authors on their writing too. Members of the Author-Editor Clinic also contribute to a blog, The Editor’s POV, which backs up and builds on the approaches Sjoholm advocates in An Editor’s Guide.
A reflective but practical resource
I’m not a fan of Kindle for all editorial resources; I wouldn’t use a dictionary or A-Z type of reference on one, for example. But An Editor’s Guide to Working with Authors is great as an ebook, because it’s designed to be read and absorbed, not consulted like a reference. Take it with you on your next long train journey, and spend time with the materials. Its approach is reflective, encouraging editors to think more deeply about how they work with authors. Possibly, a step-by-step guide could get you started. But Sjoholm’s book demonstrates the strengths of taking time to reflect on, understand, and above all practice (and practice, and practice…) ‘the art of editing writers in ways that [are] productive and respectful’. She trusts you to draw what you need from her advice, and above all wants you to bring awareness to your daily work.
So it’s not a straightforward how-to book. But it is practical. There are core documents at the heart of Sjoholm’s approach, each with a clearly defined purpose and each contributing to constructive and well-founded communication. There’s the author questionnaire, graphs and tables (if you like them), and above all, the editor’s detailed letter to the author.
Taking time to read
There are also recommended approaches for editing fiction and creative non-fiction, from the first reading onwards. Here, Sjoholm recommends taking time to just read. It sounds so simple, but it’s deceptively hard to do. Absorb and reflect on what you’re reading, sure. But don’t copy edit. This is fabulous advice if, like me, you tend to rush the first reading to get on with the meaty, hands-on editing part. Or if you are tempted to jump straight into editing punctuation, grammar, and so on. Here’s a taster from the book:
If you read your manuscript as quickly as is comfortable, without taking many notes until you reach the end, you’re more likely to gain a general impression of the manuscript as a whole. [...]
Try to approach the manuscript as freshly as you can, without preconceptions, and try to engage your emotions. [...]
I generally leave the project to simmer for a few days if I can, before picking the pages up again with a more focused plan of attack.
Since I tend to edit pretty quickly, this is like a wise colleague telling me: it’s OK to slow down. Don’t think about the detail yet. Stop the technical, copy-editorial part of your brain, while you absorb what’s happening in the whole scene.
It’s not easy… but it gets easier with practice
Sjoholm writes warmly and well, which makes the book a more pleasant read than many serious editing resources. This is someone who is comfortable in her editing practice and doesn’t need to shout ‘this is the best way to do it!’ At times, the result of her gracious and articulate style is that what she’s saying sounds deceptively easy. I kept pausing to think, ‘Hang on, I’m sure I already do that’ (and then realising, ‘Oh no, I probably don’t). For example, she advocates that editors ‘practice neutral, less personal language’. What she means is simple on paper but tough in practice: don’t use emotive adjectives (like ‘weak’ or ‘poor’), don’t couch your explanations in personal opinion (like ‘I feel that…’, ‘I really don’t like…’). Be engaged but detach yourself from emotion. These are tricky things to do consistently – that’s why Sjoholm also encourages you to be mindful in each project you do.
Critical skills for developmental editors
For me, the critical skill Sjoholm discusses in the book – and this is something that isn’t often touched on – is how important it is that editors learn to self-edit. We know that it’s great when authors can do that, but for an editor? That’s a great thought. Analyse your own language – with red pen in hand – before you send anything to an author. Your self-editing mark-up could include ‘Q’ for queries, ‘O’ for opinions, ‘S’ for suggestions, and ‘I’ for imperatives. Spot all the places where you’ve hidden ideas for major rewrites inside lists of otherwise small-scale queries. Sjoholm recommends editors use the subjunctive (‘if you’d like to…’) not the imperative (‘you must…’). She likes to think about her recommendations from an author’s perspective – how will he or she read them? Good advice.
An Editor’s Guide also reminds me that a major part of editing isn’t about reading or writing at all. It’s about listening. What Sjoholm calls ‘the art of listening to what the author needs, wants, and hopes for from you.’ The editor may not have the power to publish an author, but he or she holds in trust an important part of the author’s dreams for the book. By the way, there’s a great section at the end of the book about how to handle author expectations about their publishing plans.
The most important things, handled lightly
The real strength of An Editor’s Guide is that it gently underlines key concepts and approaches that may work for you in practice. For example, Sjoholm comes back often to the importance of using evidence to back up your thinking, encouraging editors to think about the information they need to back up editorial recommendations. This takes us in interesting directions since evidence can come from all sorts of places (even from emotions – but not directly).
Strategic approaches to communication are subtly introduced, too. I believe that it’s important to explain editorial points of view (see my earlier post in the archive) and I agree with Sjoholm’s view that editors have work to do in educating and guiding authors over time, not just fixing what’s in front of them. So, I like statements like these a lot:
Stopping to explain your reasoning to an author may seem tedious, but it also may pay off—for both of you. [...]
Part of what we do as editors is educate authors about what editors do.
An Editor’s Guide to Working with Authors grounds all its practical tips – and I haven’t even mentioned its coverage of onscreen techniques – in the same thoughtful and engaged but rational approach. And above all, Sjoholm carries right through the author–editor relationship a sense of what she calls ‘sincere respect’ for what authors are trying to do when they write. That is what makes for an honest and constructive working partnership. I love that the book draws on something that simple, something that speaks to values rather than skills. And that’s why this book is so much more useful than a how-to guide.
I’ll leave you with one last thought from An Editor’s Guide: ‘As editors we bring our whole selves to the task of reading and responding to another’s creative production.’
Now, that’s a beautiful thing!
Look out for a fresh new post here at PublishEd Adelaide next week. Until then, happy editing and publishing.