Continuing professional development (CPD) is important, and in many fields (such as medicine, law, accountancy) it is even required that practitioners complete a set number of hours of training per year. Editing should be no different, says Eva Machicado.
Even if you land a steady job right out of the gate, there are going to be certain skills you use more than others, and the less used ones are going to become dull. So, after finishing up your education, it is a good idea to have a continuing professional development (CPD) plan in place. CPD might involve keeping your existing skills sharp or learning brand new skills.
The skills you already have must be kept fresh. Our brains will forget things that are no longer useful. It is just your brain clearing room for new, relevant information; in fact, there is a scientific theory for this called the "forgetting curve," which mathematically describes how quickly information will be lost when there is no attempt to retain it. It is estimated that people forget up to 90 percent of the information within one week of learning it. But you never know when you might need those unused skills, so make sure your brain doesn't dump the knowledge.
Though some skills will always remain relevant, things can and do change in the editing world. The things you knew yesterday may not apply today. For example, dictionaries and style guides get updated to more accurately reflect modern word usage. In the seventeenth edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, there were well over two dozen changes made from the previous version. Technology is the other area of very rapid change that affects us editors, and we should be continuously building on our knowledge of the digital tools of our trade.
If you're worried about losing your editorial edge, here are a few suggestions for places to look for CPD opportunities.
Many professional organizations offer continuing education, and you don’t necessarily have to be a member in order to take participate. These take various forms, such as online classes, local meetings, or national conferences. Here is a short list of organizations you can start with.
• The Editorial Freelancers Association
• American Copy Editors Society
• Editors Canada
• Society for Editors and Proofreaders
• Northwest Independent Editors Guild
A lot of editors provide resources and classes that help you expand your skill set. Take a look at the following:
• Liminal Pages
When it comes to expanding your tech-savviness, look no further than YouTube for great, easy-to-follow tutorials.
Revision is also a simple, inexpensive way to brush up on your skills. Re-reading the textbooks you went through in school, such as A Writer’s Reference by Hacker and Sommers or the Chicago Manual of Style, can help to solidify or clarify what you previously learned. Bedford St. Martin’s press even has an online tool to accompany A Writer’s Reference where you can study on line and complete drills on the material covered.
Never stop editing
Even when the paid work stops, keep working. Find internships or volunteer opportunities or practice on unedited material, which can be found in places such as Watt Pad, blogs, or websites. If you're feeling bold, why not reach out to the author with a sample of what you’ve edited? You never know, they may want to hire you!
Whether all your CPD should be shown off on your resume is up to you, but don't do it to look good ... keep learning to FEEL good, because the best reason to continue your professional development is to raise your confidence in dealing with whatever new project comes your way.
Got any other ideas for affordable CPD for new editors? Share them in the comments below.
Eva Machicado (Embark’s Copy Chief) gives her thoughts on a tricky aspect of copyediting fiction, namely the point-of-view shift.
Do you have a query about fiction copyediting you would like Eva to address in a future post? If so, leave a comment!
What The What? Who Just Said That?
In the fiction market, head hopping (or switching character points of view within a single scene) is frowned upon. Why? Because it confuses the reader and makes it difficult for them to follow the story when they are forced to switch from the thoughts and feelings of one character to another mid-paragraph. When switching the perspective from one character to another, publishers will normally insert two blank line spaces as a signal to the reader.
It is especially common for newer authors to head hop simply because they are still in the beginning stages of honing their craft. Often, they are so close to the work that they don’t even know they are doing it. So don’t be shy about pointing this kind of thing out; a career-minded author will appreciate your help improving their manuscript.
Let’s briefly review the standard points of view (POV) used in fiction and some examples of where things have gone awry.
In this POV, the entire story is told through the main character, so they refer to themselves using the pronouns I or my (other first-person pronouns used include me, mine, we, us, and ours). They will describe what is going in the physical world around them along with their thoughts and feelings as it occurs. Sometimes the character will reminisce or have flashbacks about things that happened in the past, and sometimes they will surmise or form projections about what they think will occur in the future. However, because the story is limited to this character’s direct experience and interpretation, they cannot know what is going to happen or what anyone else is thinking until it actually becomes known. In order to have concrete information that they are certain about, they have to be present in scenes and witness what has happened, or someone has to tell them what has occurred (perhaps in the news or by a friend).
Building our careers is all about taking chances, which is exactly what Embark editor Rachel McCabe did when she applied for an internship with Agency client Science Connected.
In this post, Rachel shares the three key lessons she's learned during the past four months on the GotScience.org editorial team.
LIKE MANY OTHERS, I applied for a copyediting position at Embark to get some experience and fine tune my editing skills. I was completely new to the “real” editing world and needed some serious resume material! I enjoyed the variety of assignments I had the opportunity to work on, and each assignment taught me something new about the finer points of copyediting (or, admittedly, uncovered tidbits of information that I’d learned during copyediting courses but later filed in some overcrowded part of my brain).
When I found out that Embark was offering an editing internship with Science Connected to work on its digital publication, GotScience.org, I pounced on the chance to learn even more and see another side of professional copyediting. Although I’d never declared myself a science nerd, I thought, Why not? It’s all “just editing,” right?
Now, nearly four months into my internship, I am so happy with my decision to join the GotScience team. Not only have I learned that I actually enjoy many, many aspects of science (major bonus!), I’ve also learned some invaluable lessons along the way.
Lesson #1: Unpaid Internships are Invaluable
There’s no shame in being an unpaid intern—even as a thirty-something mother and spouse. If there’s something you want to learn and seriously pursue in life, no position or task is too small. Internships aren’t necessarily limited to college students with the best stapler-handling skills; a foot in the door at any point in life is better than being locked out. With GotScience.org, I’ve learned how to directly interact with authors, own my editorial decisions, and make meaningful contributions to exciting, interesting work. These are all real skills and experiences that have already made me a stronger copy editor.
Lesson #2: Asking for Help Sharpens Skills
Having confidence in yourself is crucial, but it’s also important to be humble and ask for advice. When I first started my internship, I doubted many of the choices I made because I knew I’d have someone reviewing my work and spotting my mistakes. For some reason that I still can’t fully explain, the review process made me nervous—and it made me shy away from putting as many marks on a document as I knew there needed to be.
Nobody particularly enjoys feedback that however nicely and respectfully points out the errors you know you should not be making! But I finally started asking more questions and discussing editorial choices. Gradually, I realized that I had the tools and the knowledge to trust my gut (and the style guides), and I became more and more comfortable with being bold enough to fully edit a piece. This is not to say I no longer ask questions or reach out for guidance (because I still do and imagine I will for the rest of time), but I understand and appreciate the balance between acknowledging when I need help or input and owning what I know. Talk about professional empowerment!
Lesson #3: Exciting Discoveries Await
I’ve learned that an editing internship leads to some pretty cool, unexpected projects! From book reviews to personal accounts of big events to summaries of scientific studies, you never know what you might be working on next. I’ve enjoyed opening my email or taking a phone call to learn about an opportunity to tackle something new and fresh, and I hope that is something I enjoy as long as I am working in this field. Even if you have to go out and find the work yourself, there are so many unique projects in need of editing!
As I write this post and reflect on my time with Science Connected, I find myself feeling so proud of and grateful for all the projects I’ve been able to contribute to. With each new piece I take on, I grow as an editor and learn more about myself (and science!). Maybe this internship isn’t “just” editing after all.
In this blog post, Nikki San Pedro tells us how she went from a volunteer copy editor to a professional managing editor in less than two years.
I. Venturing into Volunteering
When I moved to Los Angeles from Toronto at the end of 2009, the goal was to bridge my career in entertainment to a nonprofit path. Having previously worked at Epitome Pictures (the production company that birthed the Degrassi television series), I saw how much power storytelling has to inspire philanthropy. I found out about the literacy organization 826LA when my roommate came home from a record release benefit for "Chickens In Love," a project that gave students the opportunity to workshop songs for rock artists to perform and record. This project gave me the desire to make Los Angeles my new home—a city abundant with the pop-culture resources that can activate social change. In April 2010, I signed up for my volunteer orientation at 826LA and soon began tutoring on a variety of projects including choose-your-own-adventure book field trips and journalism workshops.
In 2015, I participated in 826LA’s annual Young Authors' Book Project for the first time, mentoring high school students throughout their writing process as they became published authors. This project was my first exposure to copyediting as I worked with the student editorial board. Having grown up in the digital age, I did the majority of my copyediting directly on word processors. But understanding the time-honored proofreading symbols to mark up a hardcopy felt like learning a new language to communicate corrections. Further, with my TV production background, I understood how color stories and visual vocabularies unify a series, and likened the process of developing our style guide to that practice. What phrases from the book project can we use for titles? How do we treat foreign words? Do we italicize them, provide a translation, place them in parenthesis? The student editorial board used our guidance to make style choices they felt represented their stories, and demonstrated their storytelling mastery as they offered feedback to their peers. Just a few months later in May, these students of Mendez High in Boyle Heights became published authors upon the release of We Are Alive When We Speak For Justice, an ethnography in response to the Mendez v. Westminster school segregation case.
In June 2015, I started the low-residency Creative Writing for Social Justice MFA program at Antioch University. A graduating component of the program is a field study that serves to advance the education of literary artists, promote community engagement and social justice. I reached out to 826LA to get involved more intensively on the 2017 Young Authors' Book Project. Some of my extended responsibilities for my field study included writing a timeline to unite and contextualize the collection of stories, and reviewing the galleys and ensuring the proper edits were made with each design update for their book When the Moon Is Up.
II. The Big Career Break
Within a few weeks of the galley reviews, I saw a post on a Facebook page seeking a copyeditor. The task: to manually insert copyedits into a galley proof right before the book goes to print. The author wasn’t listed and I had to sign a nondisclosure agreement before I could even find out who he or she was. But since I really enjoyed the copyediting process on the 826LA project, I reached out to the poster. I learned I’d be working with a best-selling author on a celebrity memoir to be released June 2017, and the next day I met his small editing team to work on the penultimate pass. By the end of the week, I was back there with the final edits before print. On my way out, the author asked if I would be interested in being his managing editor so he could have time to work on his own books. As of May 1, I’m diving into my responsibilities for the full publishing lifecycle of a book, with a few others in the pipeline.
As a managing editor for an author with multiple book projects, a fundamental part of my job is quality control across every draft. With the guidance of book outlines, proposals, and interview transcripts, I read each page to see how well the subject comes to life. My feedback process is less prescriptive, more suggestive; I love reading into what a writer is trying to do and asking them questions about how they could accomplish their goal with more finesse, more flair. More often than not, this process gives the writer fun, creative challenges as a jumping off point to authentically enrich the previous version. Outside the editing portion, the management part revolves around keeping deadlines on track and making sure team members have whatever they need to contribute to the strongest final draft possible.
My work with 826LA on the Young Authors’ Book Project prepared me for the managerial aspect of the role as well. Coordinating across three high school English classes to produce a unified collection of stories in response to the 25th anniversary of the LA riots helped me understand different writers’ styles and different ways to effectively support them. From seemingly miniscule details, such as italics for non-English words or choosing memorable titles that instantly set the scene for the readers, it’s important for me to help growing writers understand the value of each word, and how copyediting can load each word with so much more power. I hope to work with similar groups of young students on other kinds of writing, for different platforms. Although the copyediting aspect is less prominent across other media, I want the students to always stay aware of those writing craft choices.
III. Time in the Trenches is Essential
Before these recent publishing projects, I underestimated the value of my attention to detail. Rather than seeing it as a specialized skill, I assumed that everyone had the same affinity and ability I did for spotting spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. After all, finding typos felt more fun—and at times, even funny—to me than work. But after seeing the very first drafts of a book project morph into the printed edition, I realized that all the time I had spent deep-reading helped hone my eagle eye to catch errors that several previous readers had missed.
For people like me who love reading and strengthening the power of words, copyediting is an exciting career. And there isn’t just one path to this job: interning with a publisher throughout the editing stages is a great way to get intimate, specialized knowledge of the meticulous processes involved, and see how detail oriented you need to be to produce the publishable draft. And, down the road, when I envision myself working within tourism and hospitality instead of publishing, I know copyediting will be essential as I share my travel stories with the world.
In this month's blog post, Embarker Kathleen S. provides an overview of the online course offered by UC San Diego Extension that's designed to help new copyeditors launch their freelance careers. Leave your questions or comments below!
WHEN I COMPLETED MY SPECIALIZED CERTIFICATE IN COPYEDITING through the online program at UC San Diego Extension, I felt ready to dive in and get my new career underway. I envisioned lots of assignments to keep me busy and happily engaged in my new occupation. However, the cold truth for any freelancer, and colder still for editorial types who may not love marketing and greasing the gears of industry, is that you can't engage in your chosen profession without figuring out the basics of business.
No marketing means no new work. No understanding of the back-office aspects of running a business means no sustainability.
Fortunately, UC San Diego Extension provides a course associated with their copyediting program that goes beyond the fundamentals of copyediting. The four-week course, Editing as a Business: How to Succeed on Your Own, gives a comprehensive overview of the necessary steps to establish any freelance copyediting business and a framework for thinking about your own business goals.
To anyone who is ready to get a new freelance business underway, especially a first-timer such as myself, I say a four-week breather to develop some understanding of business essentials is time well spent indeed.
The online course had four learning objectives:
• Know how to launch and maintain an editing business
• Know where to obtain valuable resources related to running an editing business
• Develop a plan to find and approach potential clients
• Develop an online professional business presence
The online program uses Blackboard, an interactive learning site. Each week, new web-based lectures are provided by the instructor, along with reading materials and thought-provoking assignments about which detailed feedback is given. I found participation in the student/instructor discussion forum especially helpful as it introduced a wide array of views and resource referrals.
Also, since not many friends or new people I meet seem to find the idea of copyediting exciting (no doubt thinking of their red-pen-wielding high school English teachers), I also enjoyed engaging with eager, like-minded people seeking to get their editorial feet wet. The instructor encouraged active, thoughtful, and respectful engagement in this process, and it worked well for me as a learning experience.
LESSON 1: Setting up Shop
Is it possible to make a living as a freelance copyeditor? The instructor says it is, with proper rates and management. Whether to jump in full-time or ease in part-time is a question for each person to answer depending on circumstances. Six months of savings are recommended, if possible, but you should not let this become a barrier that keeps you from ever making your move to freelancing. The first lesson also focused on two key topics.
i. Clients / Niches
Know thyself. Choosing your preferred types of clients and niches is an important early step. Unless you know who your ideal clients are, you spread yourself thin and don’t achieve a good return on your marketing investment. Finding your niches may be the best way to ensure an enjoyable work life as well. Would you rather work for a publisher, a corporation or nonprofit organization, or perhaps directly with authors? Each provides a different client experience. Each has benefits and pitfalls. Working with publishers, for example, provides steady work and respect for one’s skills but the downsides include competition and non-negotiable rates. Working with individual authors may offer the ability to have more impact in shaping a book, but it also involves the need to explain more editing decisions with authors. There’s a lot to think about when honing your target client audience.
ii. Business Structure
You need to think about whether to work as a sole proprietor or set up a corporate entity. There are pros and cons—often specific to your state or city—that you need to weigh carefully.
Separate your personal accounts from business accounts? Yes, a good idea that will make your business life easier. And keep good records! There are a number of affordable online accounting software brands available that will save you a lot of work come tax time.
LESSON 2: Finding Work
How do we drum up business? The course helps you brainstorm your approach to marketing, looking at word of mouth, college campuses, cold calling, networking, blogs, job listings, and development of a website (your online business card and shop front).
LESSON 3: Back Office
No amount of professional expertise in your subject area will keep your business afloat without mastering the essentials of the back office. The bottom line of this lesson is to treat your business as a business, focusing on these key areas:
• Work Practices
• Time Management
• Setting Rates
• Paperwork and Files
A reliable computer, high-speed internet, supplies, and reference materials, as well as a quiet place to work are pretty much what a freelance copyeditor needs to get started. Not bad, compared to many other businesses.
LESSON 4: Growing Your Business
You need more than one or two clients to build a healthy business. This lesson explores the keys to a sustainable business:
• Cultivating regular clients
• Professional presence (business cards, fliers, etc.)
The Way Forward: Business Plan
The most effective and challenging aspect of the course was the ongoing assignment to develop a business plan. This is not accomplished in one sitting. I built a plan in layers as I honed my thinking around answering some critical questions. The instructor gave me feedback at each phase so that, in the end, I went away with a two-page document that spelled out the following:
• My business goals
• Types of services I planned to provide
• Niche and specialty areas I would pursue
• Types of clients I should target
• A list of potential clients to contact
• Business tools to use
• My approach to charging for my services
I took this course as soon as I completed my certificate program, but before I was quite ready to start my business. Since then, I retired from my career in the insurance industry, and I am now getting my freelance business underway. I’m glad I took this course; it provided a wealth of information and resources to keep me on track and ready to tackle the challenges of working on my own—a very different mindset after years as someone else’s employee!
If this approach to getting ready for business appeals to you, here is a link to the course website for further information.
About the Author
Kathleen Shewman is a newly minted freelance copyeditor and indexer working from her home in Western Massachusetts (shewmancopyediting.com), having recently retired from an insurance claims career. She obtained a Specialized Certificate in Copyediting through UC San Diego Extension, and completed the “Indexing: Theory and Application” course at UC Berkeley Extension. Kathleen copyedits nonfiction and fiction, and she does pro bono copyediting work for new authors and nonprofits through Embark Editorial Agency.