Copyeditors face unique challenges when working with multiple clients and writers. Primarily, everyone has their own idea of what is right and acceptable, and clients will vary on what they expect in any given piece of work. Rules also tend to change with the times as traditional writing forms make way for modern artistic freedom in speech and writing. How fast do things change? Oxford English Dictionary editors estimate they add around 1,000 words per year. Wrap your spell-checker around that statistic!
Editing in Real Life
Thinking that editing class you took in college is the be-all and end-all of editing is where potentially great editors falter, and this can make or break a career. Classes are only the beginning, no matter how thick and unwieldy the dictionary and style manual were that you memorized. The best learning even an experienced editor will find is in real life situations, especially from writers willing to share their editing nightmares.
If you Google a phrase like “bad editor,” you will find more than 20,000 results telling you exactly what not to do, including a humorous definition from Urban Dictionary. Likely most of these “Don’ts” were born from writers fed up with their police-like editors ruining a good piece of writing by sticking hard and fast to old rules. As an editor, it is imperative to work with your writer rather than against them. Ultimately, you will end up learning a lot about yourself in the process.
When you are ready to get serious as an editor and you want to improve your skills in today’s terms, find some writers to talk with. Writers are everywhere, so it should be easy to find some with some interesting editing horror stories. Brace yourself for brutal honesty in their opinions of editors because this will shed light on how you can improve. Pay attention to how they fear and perceive editors and vow to do better.
Consider the Audience
Consider editing as a continuing education in the English language. Consider the audience your writer is writing for and what the readers expect as far as form and function. It is important to know that being on the cutting edge of linguistics is bad for business (you don’t want to be too different), but being able to flex your branches with differing needs and expectations will make you less of a “bad guy” and more of a partner.
Finally, seek out a mentor or team of mentors who will provide you uncensored advice on your copyediting techniques. The more people you ask opinions of, the more diverse your skills will become. This in turn will help you break free of stagnancy and allow you more room to grow in the career.
Writers may at times find themselves stuck for a new angle on an existing project or at a loss for new topics to explore. When this happens, writing becomes frustrating, and that puts a damper on creating new material. If you are a writer, consider how your immediate surroundings affect you. Do the “same four walls” often make your writing as drab as your office? Does your personal writing drone on about the same topic night after night? If so, it is time for a change.
Professional spaces are often highly limited in how they can be personalized. In a creatively stifled office situation, it often helps to invest a small amount of money into personal writing effects like fountain pens, colored pens, and higher-end notebooks or sketch books. Taking notes with different tools helps pull a bored office worker out of the mundane and makes business writing sound better. It is also easier to work when you are happy. E-mails and memos will sound much more alive, catching more interest.
Personal writing spaces offer a lot more freedom when it comes to how they can be decorated. Writers with their own writing rooms can experiment with color, sounds, and scents to wake up the right hemisphere of their brains. If painting the walls with inspiring colors (usually oranges, blues, and greens) is too much of a task, walls can be covered with colorful tapestries or even embellished bed sheets and photo frames. Background music helps some and hinders others, so try a few things until you find a happy place.
Of course, some writers may engage in work that requires both professionalism and extreme creativity. These are the lucky ones! Marketing and advertising are two such careers where a certain amount of artistic freedom is rewarded with bigger paychecks and better contracts. In these instances, such writers are encouraged to make their work spaces (desks, offices, studios) a reflection of their creative vision, places that never stop inspiring their work.
No matter the type of writing you do, whether personal or business, if you ever feel stuck for new ideas, try changing up your surroundings. Something as simple as sitting in a new park if you work primarily indoors, or writing in a museum cafe or anywhere else you do not usually go, can provide the boost needed to start creating again.
Flash fiction, or extremely brief works of fiction, has exploded in popularity over the past few years but has been around longer than many realize. In America, one can find examples of such micro-storytelling as early as the 1800s from authors including Kate Chopin and Walt Whitman. The popular magazine Cosmopolitan popularized these short forms by way of their “Short Short Story” section, and by the 1930s, anthologies of these shorts started to hit the printing presses.
Presently, numerous print literary journals are dedicated to flash fiction, including the Vestal Review and Flash: The International Short Short Story Magazine. The internet has
broken through the limitations of print publishing these short pieces and given audiences a means to instant satisfaction, both in writing and reading the short-form written works that feature short prose, snippets of high drama, and often open endings designed to leave the reader wondering, “What next?”
Often called “fast food for the mind,” flash fiction has jumped off the pages of obscure literary magazines and found a comfortable niche on the internet. Now everyone with an internet connection and some imagination is invited to try their hand at this not-so-new style. Some writers take flash to the extreme. Historically, although the story has seen a few versions from one telling to another, there is a tale of Ernest Hemingway winning a bet with his “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
In addition to the six-word-story challenge alluded to above, folks have come up with other now commonly accepted subsets for flash fiction. Included in these powerful little subs are:
- 140-character stories called “Twitterature”
- 50-word “Dribbles”
- 100-word “Drabbles”
- 750-word “Sudden Fiction”
While there is no hard and fast rule for an actual word limit to any flash fiction story, audiences will agree on “the shorter, the better.” The internet is, after all, the go-to source for bite-sized information and entertainment. Because of this, flash fiction naturally took over a corner of the web. Not only has the internet been the impetus for enhanced awareness of the style, it has blatantly influenced its popularity. We now see online journals dedicated solely to this uniquely satisfying writing style.
New online journals crop up weekly, bringing us new flash fiction to consume. With every new voice on the web, the style continues to evolve and new rules are written. Keeping in form means flash writers take existing forms and redefine them. As long as the many forms of flash fiction remain nebulous, audiences will remain interested.
Self-publishing is difficult for authors who have already spent their valuable time writing their book and do not have the time for or experience in performing all the other tasks involved before going to print. Self-publishing companies like Lulu and BookBaby provide services including cover design, editing, and print-on-demand publishing. The author, in return, is responsible for registering the copyright and ISBN, production management, and marketing.
When authors are their own publishers under this avenue, they also have more control over the final price of the book, which is a major selling point to prospective readers. The self-publishing company will usually help the author determine a price for the book by providing a calculator for printing options and publisher commissions. This allows the author to see plainly what their portion of the profits will be for each book sold.
Vanity publishing, also called subsidy publishing, differs from self-publishing in that the author assumes all the risk and pays the publisher. This is counterproductive to authors trying to make money on their books. While vanity presses do offer services like cover design and editing, there is a major catch. Once a manuscript is published by a subsidy, it becomes their property, right down to the ISBN number. The author forfeits all rights to the book once it appears in the publisher’s catalog.
Different from both of these types of publishing options are traditional publishers. These are companies that actually invest their money and resources (like marketing and printing) into the promise that books will sell. They purchase rights to manuscripts and pay royalties to authors, often offering advances prior to publishing. Traditional publishers are where the money is, but they are also the most difficult to work with, especially for unknown authors who present a greater risk to the publisher.
Knowing the differences between the different publishing avenues available can make or (financially) break an author. By doing research into prospective publishing routes and companies, authors will find more success and fewer headaches in trying to make their works available to their intended audience.
Many writers have churned out quality novels in just a month, and while it will not happen every time, this guide will help you achieve your first draft with ease. The best way to achieve a 30-day novel is to write on a subject you are familiar with. This way the words will come easier, and you will find your fingers flying through pages at record speed. In a way, this project will use a lot of free-writing, where you will stifle your inner editor and only worry about volume at first.
Preparing for the Journey
The most important thing to do is be prepared for what you are about to undertake. This includes having an idea of what you want your story to encompass. If you are an avid science fiction reader, go with a science fiction novel or likewise if you are into romance, drama, historical fiction, or any other genre. You will also need an idea of the setting, the main characters, and the plot.
Before you begin your novel, take a few notes. The basic outline does not need to be more than one page, as your story will develop as you write it to the extent that the ending may surprise even you. Make note of the general idea of your story, some character names, and some plot twists. This will give you something to refer to as you write and will keep your writing on track.
Budgeting Your Time
This is probably the most difficult part of the 30-day novel project because we all have busy lives and things happen to keep us from our writing goals. This is where you need to get a little serious and actually commit time every day if possible to writing. What length do you want your novel to be? The average easy read is around 50,000 to 80,000 words. To start easy, try 50,000 words. In 30 days, this means just under 1700 words a day, or about three and a half pages if you are typing single-spaced.
Three and a half pages sounds completely achievable, does it not? If you are free-writing, this should only take about an hour and a half or less if you are on a roll. If it is not possible for you to commit one to two hours a day to writing, due to other commitments for example, break down your time into what will work for you. If you can only write six days a week, aim for 2,000 words a day, or about four pages.
The Easy Part – Start Writing
Now that you have the basics down, it is time to get to work and start creating a fantastic read in much less time than you imagined. If you truly get stuck and need outside support, online groups are available to help. The best-known is NaNoWriMo (which stands for National Novel Writing Month). The group is most active in the fall, as it holds a writing event every November. You can, however, find support year-round from other writers and editors.