I decided to write a quick overview of 2020, work-wise. I have yet to fully assess 2020’s editing work, except that it’s been hectic owing to the fact I decided to sign up at Fiverr. There, I started with one gig that drew in a lot of work: an opening 10,000 words chapter edit. It wasn’t something that others were offering. After waiting for someone to bite and getting the first five-star review, I hit the ground running.
I believe that I’ve edited or given feedback on well over a million words. That is not an exaggeration when I factor in full novel edits, plus a lot of 10K+ opening chapters edits.
From the first gig, it was one editing job after another. Writers would try out the opening chapters edit, and then they would branch off as follows:
- Request a developmental edit of the rest of their book
- Come back for a developmental edit of a bigger chunk of their opening
- Return for a revision of their 10,000 words
- Opt to edit their book in 10,000-word stages, to spread cost
- Seem happy with the edit but didn’t request another or waited months to rework their manuscript before they did
Sometimes a client decided to opt for a beta+ read – this was more or less a beta read with some editorial feedback. Not as much feedback as you would expect with a manuscript critique. This is because they specifically requested a beta read with some editorial feedback thrown in. They had a list of concerns they had. I would respond to those and add any observations of my own, focusing only on the most important issues. Definitely shorter than a manuscript critique.
One client group I didn’t plan to work with was memoirists. One of the developmental editing courses I did years ago included memoir, so I had the class notes. But all my other courses, except one, focused on fiction. While there are many disadvantages to pricing your services far too low, one advantage is you and the client are willing to try something out because the risk is low in terms of money. I really enjoyed working with these clients. It was a privilege to read and give them feedback on stories that were very personal to them.
There was one particular client whose true story has really stayed with me. I can’t even hear particular music from the 1960s or think of particular places, without recalling scenes from their books. Their memories have in many ways become my own. People and places from over fifty years ago and the very definite sense of the fleeting nature of youth and time. I found myself wondering what happened to those young people. There was a mood that hung over me afterwards. I think it can be best described by the Portuguese word saudade. Dionne Warwick’s song, Say A Little Prayer, which played on one of the streets, will be one of the tunes that I forever connect to that story.
One client had published their memoir already and had noticed, thanks to Amazon, that readers were bailing out by a certain page count. They asked me to take a look and I could see that they effectively had three introductory chapters that created a circular opening where the same points were made over and over, delaying the main story. I really liked the main story, so it was a matter of removing unnecessary repetition, condensing some other information, and letting the themes of the memoir unfold through the book. Now, the reader will be plunged into the story sooner.
Overbooked and overworked
I frequently had to pause my gigs or switch to out-of-office mode just to control the workflow. Putting prices up also meant fewer people placing orders. I will need to put prices up again soon. I did however have a lot of returning clients. Some with more than one book for me to work on.
Joined the wrong editorial society
I made a mistake in January when I joined the wrong editing society. Not much there on developmental editing. Some people specialised in developmental editing, but to get upgraded in this organization they had to come from proofreading and/or copyediting first.
So, I pretty much paid to put a glass ceiling over my head. Three months in and I just wanted out. I have not applied for an upgrade since it costs money and there’s no way for me to proceed. At the end of the day, it was just not the right place for me.
Happily, later in the year, I upgraded my EFA membership to full member status. Since it’s the primary teaching organisation for developmental editing, it’s just a better fit for me.
Continuing Professional Development
On continuing professional development, I’ve been delayed finishing some courses because of the sheer amount of client work I had. But I finished my copywriting course from the Publishing Training Centre. According to my tutor, I hold joint top position in the history of the course. Or I did at the time I completed it. The course is in publishing-related copy.
I also did almost all the free webinars provided by the Editorial Freelancers Association to full members.
2020 heroes – all in copywriting or marketing!
I’m also getting to the end of a copywriting course in direct marketing with the San Francisco School of Copywriting. In the coming year, I’ll be offering copywriting services for authors. I did a small amount of copywriting work in 2020.
Otherwise, I started a great course by Ash Ambirge in how to be an fuckwithable freelancer (I should be so lucky). It’s amazingly comprehensive in terms of giving practical advice and listing apps and must-dos for your business.
I’d already enjoyed her book The Middle Finger Project (which I totally recommend). It also contains a link at the end to another exclusive pdf book called something like, You Don’t Need a Job, You Need Guts. Not a freebie, but it IS one of those things that gives you a kick up the backside when you need it. It’s also about 200 pages long. I’m hoping to do another course with her in 2021.
I think Ash Ambirge is one of my heroes of the year, in terms of inspiration. Funnily enough, all my 2020 heroes are in copywriting or marketing, not developmental editing. Maybe because my developmental editing tutors were heroes in previous years. But, the marketing/copywriting folks who inspired me include Janet Murray, Jo Watson, Graham Cochrane, and Gill Andrews.
I shall continue to consume their content in 2021. I’ll also overhaul this website on the basis of what I’ve learned from them. I’m already doing so.
In the meantime you can check out the following blog posts on the differences between a manuscript critique and a developmental edit, and what you get if you hire me.