Tuesday, June 26, 2012

First write a good story, then make it shine

First write a good story, then make it SHINE!  That's the beginning of a career as a successful author. 

I met Jennifer Gracen almost two years ago in PubWrite.  Since then, we have had the pleasure of meeting in person at conferences and talking online, on Spreecast, and by phone. We share very similar philosophies about life and, relevant to today's post, the future of the professional writer in a changing market. She is a talented person and has more energy than most people I know. I had the amazing fortune of having her copy edit Dark Dealings and the final result is better for her sharp eye and diligence. I asked her to share her thoughts on copy editing with us today.

Take it away, Jen!

I was asked if I wanted to write a post about my “Pet Peeves in Copy Editing”, and said sure, okay. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to get down on anyone about making mistakes in their writing. Hey — if people didn’t make mistakes, I wouldn’t have a job. I really only have one major peeve about editing. Hear me out first before I reveal it.

Everyone has their strengths. One of mine is seeing grammatical errors, typos, and other types of mistakes in a written document. To me, it’s as if they’d been written in neon. That makes me a born editor. Sometimes a client does this strange thing, where he/she apologizes profusely to me for their mistakes as they give me their work to edit. I can’t help but smile as I remind him/her: I expect to find mistakes — that’s why you hired me, right? Stop apologizing! Believe it or not, most of the best writers do NOT have clean manuscripts. But the best writers know this, and seek out an editor to make her/his work the finest, cleanest, tightest work it can be. This goes for getting both copy editing and content editing. Some editors do both types. I don’t most of the time, but do delve into content editing on occasion. Yes, there’s a difference. But that’s a whole other blog post.

I worked as a full time copy editor for a big company when I was younger, before I had kids. I loved that job. I now do it on a freelance basis, and I like that even better. There are pros and cons, of course. First, the cons: I don’t get a steady paycheck, I’ll never make a lot of money doing it, and I’m basically performing a service on a leap of faith, assuming (hoping) my client will pay me when I’m done, as promised. But the pros? I get to pick and choose my clients and the projects I work on. The flexibility of working on my own timetable, and working from home, is a necessity. I’ve been a stay-at-home mother for a decade now, so being able to work from home while juggling two kids, my own writing, and life in general is key for me. I’m totally committed to my editing work, and I honestly love doing it. I get paid to read, basically, if you think about it. Paid to read and make work shine. For a lifelong voracious reader, what’s better than that?

If you’re a writer who is smart enough to hire a copy editor, or an editor in general, you’re showing your true dedication to your work. It means you’ve done your homework, and know that the reading public won’t take your work seriously if it’s riddled with mistakes. You’ve also admitted to being human and knowing that EVERY writer makes mistakes. I’m not only a copy editor, I’m also (first and foremost, actually) a writer. And even I make mistakes. We all do. Good for you for admitting you’re a flawed human, and a writer who cares about her/his work enough to ensure its quality.

So what’s my big peeve about copy editing? Writers who don’t have it done. Writers who think they’re above editing and don’t need it, or are too lazy to take the time to have it done before submitting it or self-publishing. Everyone needs a sharp second pair of eyes to go over their work. Show your commitment to your craft and respect for your readers: have your work edited. 


Jennifer recently resumed her freelance copy editing/proofreading career after a few years’ hiatus. She has an AA in Music from Dean College, attended Berklee College of Music for two years, and received her BA in English from Molloy College. She worked as an editorial assistant & proofreader for PRR Publications, then as a copy editor for Bookspan, before choosing to stay home to dedicate herself to being a full-time mother in 2002. She did occasional freelance work over the time since, but now that her children are older, she is able to dedicate more of her time to freelance copy editing again, and has done so with a vengeance.
Jennifer also writes contemporary romance/women’s fiction. She has completed three novels and has agent representation. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Long Island Romance Writers (RWA Chapter 160). Her women’s fiction manuscript, Shades Of Denial, placed 3rd for the Single Title Category in the Launching a STAR 2011 contest.
Born and raised on Long Island, New York, Jennifer currently lives there with her husband and two young sons. She is a self-professed social media addict, and is hoping to stave off an intervention for a while longer.
Contact Information:
Email:  jennifer@spellcheck70.com               
Copy Editing Website http:/jgce.wordpress.com
Twitter: @JGCopyEditing OR @jennifergracen