The Art and Craft of Editing: Preparation, Selection, Satisfaction
Article by Sarah (Lingley) Williams, of Lingley editing services, LLC
I am ecstatic for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you about what I call “The Art and Craft of Editing.” I have been freelance editing for several years now; when people ask what I do for a living, I usually get one of two responses. “Oh, that’s awesome!” or “You do what?”
Often, those who respond with “You do what?” know what editing is, but have never viewed it as fundamental to life as it is. Editing combines the craft of understanding the rules of language, punctuation and grammar with the art of knowing how and when to apply or manipulate these rules for the overall benefit of the document.
I refer to editing as an art and craft because, unlike some things that are perceived as a science, it is based on rules and standards that can be learned and practiced by most everyone. To some, fluency with language and words comes more naturally than it does to others, but the guidelines are there for all to utilize and master.
As a published author, I know the feelings that accompany writing a document and wanting perfection. Our work is our heart and soul; we worry over whether or not every sentence is excellent, whether or not we missed a comma, and whether or not the content flows for the reader with the same fervency it flows for us. Our fear that we overlooked an error is real and tangible. I understand the value of someone else reviewing my work, but am afraid to let this part of me out of my grip.
Maybe you are living this daily struggle as you complete your document, or perhaps you have experienced these feelings in the past. For those of you just starting out, this scenario may be unfamiliar. Wherever each of you are, my hope is that this article calms your fears and gives you the necessary confidence to prepare, select and receive a satisfactorily edited document.
Your work is complete. Perhaps you have a three-page article, a fifty-page thesis, or a 60,000 word manuscript. You’ve read it over and reworked it. But preparing for an editor requires a few more steps:
1) Let someone else read it; a friend, a colleague, a fellow writer
2) Reread your work with a fresh perspective; step away for a day, a week
3) Run a spell check and grammar check; double check formatting
These steps may seem mundane, but they are invaluable. It is embarrassing to receive your edited document and find that you missed simple things; it is time consuming for an editor to correct multiple findings of “adn,” “teh,” and double indents. Remember, time equals money and no one has limitless amounts of either.
Preparing your work for an editor is a crucial step, and one that should never be overlooked. While an editor exists to polish and hone, never should you deliver a sloppy document. As a writer, you should value the plethora of words at your disposal; there is no need to overuse uncreative tag lines like “said” and “thought,” or such lifeless dialogs as:
“Hi,” said Jane.
“Hello,” said John.
“How are you?” said Jane.
“I’m doing well,” said John.
As a writer, your work thrives on imagination, and the life of your work comes from your ability to create engaging worlds in which your readers can get lost. A piece of well written work captures the reader and leaves him or her hungry for more. What better way to hold your readers’ interests than delving into your soul and pulling out a spell-binding collection of words?
Everything is as perfect as you can get it. You ask around for a reputable editor, or maybe even run a google search. Of course, you seek services that are timely, cost-effective and thorough, but knowing what you need will help you find what you want. It is important to understand what types of editors exist:
—Developmental Editors assist writers from conception to completion; he or she is there every step of the way, guiding you through the entire process
—Substantive Editors contribute to the whole picture, aiding with the structure and development of the document as a whole
—Copy Editors focus on the finishing touches; he or she finds grammar, punctuation and spelling errors, with attention to the overall flow and development as the author requests
After selecting the type of editor that best suits your needs, there are a few additional things to keep in mind:
1) Is he or she willing to show you samples of his or her work? Are positive references available to you?
2) Does he or she allow his or her own voice to over-ride the voice of the author?
3) Does he or she have credibility? What is his or her education and professional background?
4) Is his or her blog, website or professional profile typo-free?
Finding an editor is easy. Finding one that meets your needs, however, and delivers a service that reaches above and beyond, will be well worth your research.
As a published author, I can relate to every step of the journey you are on, including the satisfaction that comes from receiving your perfectly edited document. As an editor, I cannot express the elation that comes from offering constructive feedback so that your document is a winning piece of literature. I take great pride in supplying writers of all skill levels with the guidance needed to reach his or her goals.
You hold a unique position as a writer; my hope for you is that as you pursue the journey of opening new worlds to your readers, you can shine, fly and reach the highest levels of achievement.
Sarah Williams is the owner and editor in chief of Lingley Editing Services, LLC. She holds a BA in Communication from Salem College, in Winston-Salem, NC. During college, Sarah volunteered as a tutor at the Student Writing Center, and interned as Assistant Marketing Director and Editor at Press 53. Sarah has been writing and getting published since high school, and has been a freelance editor since 2006. She currently lives with her husband in Arizona, where her home-based business allows her the freedom to enjoy the blue skies and warm sunshine.