Create the Moment for Your Readers

old books on a shelf

It’s been a rough morning. The puppies have been barking to be let out (perhaps, as corgis, they’re excited about the royal wedding?), my laptop just had a massive update and my email server isn’t working.

But I fed two of my addictions – my new Kat Von D 10th Anniversary makeup palette (and an Anastasia Beverly Hills lippy) arrived by courier, and I watched the latest edition of RuPaul’s Drag Race – so it can’t all be bad.

I still haven’t started work and it’s 13:40pm. Guess I’ll be working tomorrow then?

*bear with me people, it’s been a long morning – Windows decided to take an HOUR to update when I turned my laptop on*

KatVonD and the editor

Looks, it’s me, I’m real and I have pretties.

This week’s inspiration comes from a comment Ross Mathews made on Drag Race, season 10, episode 9.

He was talking to my favourite queen, Miz Cracker (she’s great).

While I was watching Drag Race, eating my breakfast and looking forward to a day of interesting things (oblivious to the fact that I should have turned on my laptop first), Ross made a comment that made me sit up and take notice.

He told Cracker (I’m paraphrasing here …)

Don’t get caught up in the details,

when you’re creating a moment you have to let go.

Oh. My. Goodness.

He is so right!

Look, I’m going to say something here, and you may hate me for it. Especially if you are in the same business that I am – editing, proofreading, copywriting … words, words, words.

dictionary words

 

You can spend so much time looking at the detail that you lose the big picture.

 magnifying glass

Remember the phrase I coined a few weeks ago, the ‘Perfectpreneur’? We spend so much time looking at perfectpreneurs, and at the details surrounding them, that we forget we’re just as good and just as capable as them. Do my exercise if you don’t believe me.

When we work, we spend so much time checking the details – the spelling, grammar, syntax – that we can forget we’re creating a moment for the reader.

Sure, details are important – if you don’t check the details and you’re a copyeditor or proofreader then you aren’t doing your job properly. BUT you shouldn’t spend so much time on them that you forget the end user.

 

You can’t lose the big picture because if you do you lose the moment for the reader.

Sometimes you just have to let go.

let go

Let go of the overly academic text or the business jargon and give the reader room to breathe. Create the moment by using plain language and make them WANT to read your damn paper.

Let go of the perfect English and aim your writing at the level that’s needed. So, start a sentence with ‘so’, and ‘and’, and ‘but’ if you want to. No one is going to die from an informal piece of writing.

Let go of the rigid formality that’s strangling us all. Life is short. Create that moment in the way that’s best for the work in hand.

Just let go.

Create the moment.

Understand that unless your piece of writing is destined for greatness it may not be remembered that long. It’s a tough thought. But it’s true. Look at all the books in the bookshops and all the adverts, leaflets, brochures, websites, TV programmes, radio programmes, YouTube videos …

woman, networking, social media, network

 

Create the moment for your readers, whoever they are, and they’re likely to remember you for longer.

Who remembers the staid, boring, formal academic paper that they have to wade through?

Who remembers the word-perfect, boringly detailed, book with no soul?

Sure, check the details but never forget the big picture.

Create the moment, people.

Let go.

Who should edit my book?

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If you’ve written a book and you intend to get it published this is probably a question you’ve asked yourself. And you may have been going round and round in circles trying to figure it out.

If you’ve hit the jackpot and managed to get a publisher this may be out of your hands as the publisher will likely have a pool of in-house or freelance publishers.

If you intend to self-publish (and many respected authors are taking this route) you will have to find your own editor, and this is where it can get tricky.

With this in mind here are a few pointers for all of you who are having a hard time …

Who should edit your book?

editing proofreading publishing

(c) Nic McPhee Flikr

  1. Someone who’s trained.

While your old English teacher, best friend, co-worker, sibling, parent or dog-walker may do a brilliant job of spotting typos, or the odd misplaced paragraph, they should really be kept within the role of beta reader.

 

Only a trained editor can do a professional job within a professional framework.

It’s their job.

massive library full of books

  1. Someone who knows the subject.

OK, this one’s a little tricky. An editor doesn’t need a degree in the subject they’re editing, and a general understanding may be enough. But the more in-depth or complicated the subject, the more you should go for a subject specialist.

 

For example, I don’t have a degree in history, but I’ve worked around historical subjects for nigh on 30 years (I’ve worked in archives, taken courses, I’m a professional genealogist …) so I’m very comfortable around historical subjects. I’ve also studied the arts in a less formal surrounding, so am happy with all sorts of arty things. But you should never, ever hire me to work on a physics or maths book. I would refuse anyway, but you should be aware what subjects the editors you’re looking at are comfortable with.

 

Approach those you see have some concrete knowledge of your subject area.

Businessman Giving out Card --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

  1. Someone you’re going to be able to work with.

You don’t need to like your editor (although it helps if you do), but you do need to be able to work with them. The editor you choose will be working through your document with a fresh, professional, pair of eyes. They may have to give you some bad news (a section doesn’t work, some things don’t make sense, or point out that perhaps you need to rewrite) and they’re going to ask you questions. You need to be able to talk to your editor. Sometimes it can be a long term relationship and no one likes to be fired, or to do the firing.

 

Talk to the editor you choose, ask for a sample edit (which may be free or paid for), and pick one that you’ll be able to work with.

friends, trust

  1. Someone you trust.

It goes without saying that you should be able to trust your editor. Here I’d say go with gut instinct (cue shocked noises and dismay among the ‘hard fact’ brigade).

No professional editor will share your work, or steal it, or do anything with it other than edit or proofread it (or whatever else you ask for). But you need to be able to trust your editor to do their best for your work. Even if that means telling you that your book isn’t ready to edit and you need to spend more time on it.

 

Hire the editor you trust to tell you the truth and do what’s best for you and your book.

 SfEP Conference 2017

  1. Someone who’s a member of a professional society.

While it’s not strictly necessary, if an editor is a member of a professional society it shows that they’re not hobbyists and that they’re serious about their profession. They will have to abide by the society’s code of standards. They will have a network of professionals that they can lean on and where they can keep up with their CPD. They will have (usually) had to prove proficiency in their field.

 

Hiring an editor who’s a member of a professional society gives you an extra level of trust.

 

happy writer

If you keep these five points in mind it will make finding an editor easier.

 

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned price. Honestly, price is not a factor. Price will come down to many things – size of the book, subject matter, what needs to be done, experience of the editor, timescale etc. Also an editor who seems hugely expensive may be more efficient and knowledgeable and one who seems cheap may be less efficient or charge by the hour and take longer.  Price is the last thing you should think of, and if need be budget and save to get the best editor who fits your needs.

 

If you’re looking for an editor I specialise in historical fiction and non-fiction, but you can check out my SfEP directory entry to see what else I can do.

If you’re looking for someone else the SfEP directory holds over details of over 700 members.

If you’re looking for an editor outside of the UK these links will help you.

 

Take your time and choose wisely!

 

Perfectionism

perfect bullseye

So, last week I wrote a post that prompted quite a reaction.

In it I said that it’s ok to be perfectish.

‘It doesn’t mean that it won’t be perfect,

just accept that it might not be.

And that’s totally fine.’

Most of the comments were positive, but some of you thought I meant to strive for perfectish, rather than perfect.

Hmmm.

Language sometimes gets in the way doesn’t it? So that post itself was perfectish. In most people’s eyes it said what it was supposed to say – seek excellence (perfectish) rather than perfection – while some people got the wrong end of the stick.

I still stand by my words:

People, setting yourself up for perfection is just setting yourself up for disappointment and broken dreams.

corgi with a stickNow, I always strive for excellence, but I never, ever promise perfection. I may deliver it, but I never promise it.

Why?

  • Clients may not have the budget to attain perfection.
  • Clients may not have the time to attain perfection.
  • Clients may not want to attain perfection (sometimes good enough is actually good enough).
  • Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.

A+ testimonial

As service providers we have to look after our clients and ourselves, and that means working within the constraints of what is set before us. So this week we’ll look at how to achieve excellence as both a service provider and a client.

If you are a service provider:

Train. Do lots of training – that could be in-house training if you’re an employee, or it could be self-funded freelance training. The more training you have, and the more experience you have, the better you will get. No one ever achieved excellence if they didn’t know what they were doing (and if anyone has I’m sure someone will tell me). Target your training to suit your needs and your sector. There’s no point training in editing fiction if you only ever, and will ever, edit academic journals. Don’t train just for the sake of it – your education should enhance your knowledge, give you new targeted knowledge or help you move in a new direction. Spend your training budget, and your time, wisely.

Talk to your clients. Simple really, but different clients have different needs and expectations. I’ve had clients who only wanted a very quick turnaround and a basic edit, and I’ve had some who needed the full bells and whistles. Respect your clients, talk to them and deliver what they want.

Utilise your computer. Learn macros and programs that will help you. The more you can do mechanically, the more time you have to take care of the human aspect and do the actual editing. Editors are not computers, and I’ve still to find a computer that can complete the human aspects of editing and proofreading.

perfect sign

If you are a client:

Utilise your computer. When you have completed your document, use the tools available to you. Use spellcheck, and use Hemmingway or Grammarly wisely. Set the language in your document to the correct one before you start.

Get it as perfect, in your eyes, as you can get it. The better it reads to you, the better it will read to your editor and the easier it will be to truly attain excellence. If the document is in a bad state to begin with, your editor may be able to get it as near damn perfect as possible but it will take longer and cost you more. Dispense with the fancy fonts, fancy formatting and layout – it’s much easier to read, and work on, 12pt Times New Roman, double-spaced with margins of 2cm on each side of an A4 page, or something similar (personally I hate TNR and always work in Calibri). The first thing your editor will do if you submit your document in Comic Sans, single-spaced with 0.5cm margins is spend time reformatting it. They may not even accept your commission if the document seems to be too badly set out (we’ve all had documents sent for an estimate/quote where a fancy layout has hidden text that just wasn’t ready for an edit). Make it as easy as possible for your editor to start work on the document.

Revisit the terminology. Are you looking for an editor or a proofreader? There is a difference, and asking for an edit, rather than a proofread, may not give you the results you are after. Proofreading comes at the very end, while editing is the middle bit (I tend to concentrate on the editing side of things).

Talk to your editor at the very start. You’re in this together, so set out your needs, wants and expectations. Give them your manuscript to appraise before work starts – let them see what they will be working on. How many editing passes do you want? An editor will usually include one or two in their estimate, anything more will cost you more. You’re on this journey together, it’s best to both start off on the right footing.

wisdom over perfectionism

Think editors should promise perfection? Don’t believe me when I say perfection is a silly thing to promise?

Some colleagues I respect have also written some wonderful articles on the issue:

Lisa Poisso on ‘Why did the editor miss errors in your book?’

Arlene Prunkl on When editors make mistakes

Kia Thomas on Editing and the rise of the machines

copywriter

Perfectionism is paralysing and can cause you to stall, constantly re-check your work, make you feel inadequate and can lead to serious health problems. As a freelance, the negative sides of perfectionism can become debilitating – when you work on your own there’s no one to tell you that you’re fine, that your work is damn perfect and that everyone feels the same (that’s why I highly recommend joining a professional society such as the SfEP). Mind you, there’s always someone out there to tell you that you’re rubbish.

As editors and proofreaders we have a tendency towards seeking perfection. But it’s dangerous and toxic, and society is riddled with an unhealthy attitude towards perfection. You can read an article on the BBC website that talks about the toxicity of perfectionism.

Even the Harvard Business Review and the World Health Organisation have noted the current trend for perfectionism that is destroying a generation

Yet perfection is an impossible goal. Those who become preoccupied with it inevitably set themselves up for failure and psychological turmoil. They become obsessed with winning the validation of others and demonstrating their worth through flawless performance after flawless performance.’

More information can also be found in an excellent pdf resource on how to overcome perfectionism by the Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia (AnxietyBC) website.

thumbs up

Perfectionism is something I’ve struggled with for years (and I’m not completely over it), so I’ve learned the hard way to understand when perfectish is ok.

Strive for excellence in your work, look after you clients (or your freelances if you are a client) and look after yourself. Surround yourself with like-minded people and accept that ‘perfect’ is subjective.

Be honest, authentic and human.

Don’t let perfectionism paralyse you, it will affect you and your business if you let it.