A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked as a freelance professional copy & technical editor for a major publishing house (and before that as a proofreader). This has left me with an abiding affection for good grammar, decent sentence structure, and the Oxford comma. The Chicago Manual of Style was my bible. It’s also left me with a distinct inability to let go of grammatical errors, both in my own work and in the works I read for critique partners. Unfortunately, my critical editor’s eye extends to published works as well. I can’t help spotting the errors.
Part of me thinks I’m a better editor than I am a writer.
Here are my questions, editor friends: If you edit fiction professionally, what qualifications do you bring to the table? What kinds of editing services do you offer? If I decide to go back into editing as a profession, which must-join organizations do you recommend? How did you pick what types of editing you offer, or did you just fall into it? Does your editing work get in the way of your creative writing? Do you ever get to read for pleasure without worrying about spelling and grammar, about clunky story structure, about things that would have made the piece flow so much better?
I guess in a lot of ways — and bear with me on this — editing is a lot like massage therapy, which I did for more than a dozen years. The similarity is that we have to ground ourselves and set our own boundaries before starting a massage just like I ought to remember to do before starting a new book. Also like massage, if the experience is less than stellar, I know to avoid that sort of thing in the future. I’ve learned a lot about which editors-for-hire I would and would not like to work with based on the quality of the edited works I’ve read.
Of course, even the best editors have bad days, and I certainly have my pet peeves when it comes to grammar. The last thing I had professionally edited (at a pretty hefty price) came back to me with a repeated paragraph that went uncaught. I’m glad I did my own proofreading.
Should I start doing this again for pay?