(Transcript) – How to choose an editor for your writing

Morgan MacDonald ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac) :  Hello. Welcome to the replay. If you want to talk about how to choose an editor for your writing, you’re in the right place, And did you know? You can give hearts too! If there’s something that really resonates with you while you’re on the replay, tap the screen, and it sends hearts just like if you were live in the room with us. So welcome.


MIguel Rubbio ( https://twitter.com/MiguelangRubio ) : Hi


Morgan MacDonald ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac) :  … Hey Miguel! Welcome as we’re joining in. So today we’re talking about how to choose an editor. I feel like a lot of people do this, kind of, haphazardly. Like they write something, and then AFTER they’ve written it they’re like, “Oh! I need an editor. Let me hop online and find one.” You may or may not be choosing someone who is going to help make your work BETTER. So I wanted to give you some tips on how to approach this… Thanks for the hearts, Miguel… in a really smart and strategic way, so you find and editor who is good for your writing, AND who you can stick with for a long time; [someone] who helps you develop your voice and lean into the life of an author that you want to become.


So that is, kind of, our topic for today. If you guys are live on the web – I feel like there’s always a lot of web watchers – it’s WAY more fun to be in the room on Periscope. So get the app and follow @morgangmac . [Also] if you want to get the Scope Notes, you know where they are. I take notes for your guys, [and] I put them on http://www.paperravenbooks.com/periscope [where] you have notes, replays and transcripts. If you Scope and write, use the hashtag


#periscopewriters ( https://twitter.com/search?q=%23periscopewriters&src=typd ),


so we can FIND you, and SUPPORT you.


Oh, who am I?  I am Morgan Gist MacDonald. I’m a writing coach, editor, and author. I help people write books. I take you from vague idea to first draft to manuscript, chapter by chapter, and help you write the book that you have been wanting to write. Part of that process is finding an editor – well, not when you’re working with me [where] I am your editor [laughter]. But if you’re NOT working with me you’re still going to need an editor, [so] how do you do that?


First, I would like to point out [that] there are a couple of different TYPES of editing, and you need to think about what your work really NEEDS. At the HIGHEST level there is writing coaching, which is someone who takes you through the beginning of a manuscript. So [they catch] you at vague idea, and helps you write the whole thing. Then there is “development editing”. After you have written a first draft a developmental editor will come in…


JessR8 ( https://twitter.com/Jess_JRussell ) : I'm late


Morgan MacDonald ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac) : … Hey Jessica! NO problem. You know where to catch the notes [laughter]… Okay. so a developmental editor will come in, edit your first draft, and tell you where there are points where you’re like repetitive, or you need to be more CLEAR, or, “There’s a gap here,” or, “This paragraph should actually be up here in this other chapter.” LIke they’ll move things around in the structure of the book.


Then below that there’s “copy editing”, which is like sentence-level stuff. So they’re going to go in and change all the different parts of your sentences, reword things; it’s sentence-by-sentence editing. Then “proofreading” is the lowest level – I mean, not that proofreading isn’t important, it’s vital [laughter] – but it’s the most detailed, zoomed in, and it’s catching all of those little subject-verb agreements, typos, and misspellings, and stuff.


So those are the different levels. So when you’re thinking about hiring an editor you really need to get clear on what you NEED. If you ALREADY have a first draft you’re NOT going need writing coaching. You’re going to need an editor. I recommend that you do ALL THREE levels of editing. I recommend you do developmental editing, copy editing, and proofreading. And honestly, it’s BETTER if you have AT LEAST two editors. When I work with authors I work with a TEAM.  So I do the writing coaching and developmental, [and] my team does copy editing and proofreading. So everything that WE edit gets two different sets of eyes – because I think that’s really important.


BUT you still need a PRIMARY relationship. I suggest you develop a primary relationship with an editor who does developmental and copyediting. MOST editors will do both, because we feel like – most editors do copy editing. It’s sort of like sentence-level stuff, [and] we’re all generally pretty good at that. Some people like the higher up, broader stuff – like developmental – [while] some people prefer the lower level proofreading.


So find an editor who does developmental AND copyediting, and develop a RELATIONSHIP with that person. Well, how do you know do you know if you’re going to LIKE that person? Hopefully they have a web site. I would really encourage you to look for someone who has a web site and some sort of social media presence, so that you can get to know their TONE. I know a lot of people go onto Upwork.com, which is where you can get freelance people, and that’s fine. But make sure the person has actually filled out their “about me” area, written some paragraphs so you can tell how the person sounds, and talks. The reason I want you to look for a web site, or social media, or AT LEAST a few paragraphs the editor has written [is] because I want you to tune into the editor’s VOICE. Because here’s the thing – you want your editor to be someone that you would enjoy sitting down and talking with. Someone who you VIBE well with, who you get along with, who you find personable, because an editor’s voice is going to show up in your writing.


So let’s do an example here.  You’ve got a first draft. It’s done, and you want to hand it over to a copy editor. You’re like, “I like the structure, kind of, how it is, and I really just want copy editing. I want you to just go in and make sure the sentences sound good.” Okay? So you go in search of a copy editor. There are different types of people who go into editing. Okay. So there are people who are really good… Hey Kesha… at English, and making “A”s in English classes, and writing papers that English professors really like. So when they graduate, and they aren’t sure quite what they want to do, they’re like, “Ah! I’ll be an editor.” Okay. Fine. That’s good. But they don’t really push themselves to excel and figure out editing as a craft. So they remain at the level of “English class”, and their MAIN purpose is to make sure that everything is grammatically correct, and that there are no typos, and that you sound proper. Okay?


So if you can imagine taking your precious [laughter] first draft and handing it to someone whose main history is doing really well in English class, they’re going take your first draft, re-write stuff, and make it sound like a really good English class paper. But that’s not what you want [laughter]. That type of English class writing is not compelling. It’s not going to sell, [and] it is not going to connect with your reader and audience. Yeah, it will be grammatically correct, and an English professor  would give it an A+,. but you’re NOT selling to English professors. You’re selling to REAL people in the marketplace.


So yeah, when I edit stuff we go for grammar – everything is going to be correct – but I’m okay with bending the rules a little bit if I feel like the voice is going to come out. You know? Like if we start a sentence with “but” that’s OKAY, because it’s all about how the overall tone and voice sounds. So if you are hiring a copy editor whose main, sort of, trophy in life is that they did really well as an English major, just be CAREFUL [laughter] That’s okay. Yes, starting a sentence with “but” is totally okay, if it serves a PURPOSE. If it serves a purpose to break up a sentence and really emphasize the second sentence. So [breaking] rules with a purpose is totally fine.


So when you go to look at someone’s profile on Upwork, or whenever you’re looking for an editor, if they emphasize things like, “I was an English major.” or their grade point average, or that they look for grammar errors, subject-verb agreement, and capitalization. If they emphasize that those BASIC English grammery [type] things are their focus, then that’s what’s going to be their focus when they’re going at it on your first draft. So I would be really cautious.


INSTEAD, what you’ll WANT to look for is an editor who understands that the writing should be conversational.


MIguel Rubbio ( https://twitter.com/MiguelangRubio ) : [YeaH], some times the character has broken English so they have to work with that!.  


Morgan MacDonald ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac) :  … MIguel says, “Yeah, sometimes the character has broken English so they have to work with that!”… Exactly. So you can imagine that an editor whose primary trophy in life is doing well in English class is not going to know what to do with a broken accent. They’re just not going to be helpful.


So you want to look for an editor who has a little bit broader of a perspective, and understands that writing is about CONNECTING with a reader, and it’s about selling, and marketing, and about communicating your message in a really powerful, compelling way – that THAT is the focus.


JessR8 ( https://twitter.com/Jess_JRussell ) : Imagine what it was like to edit Harry Potter. lol.


Morgan MacDonald ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac) :  .. [laughter] Jessica says, “Imagine what it was like to edit Harry Potter.”… Yeah. It’s true. That would be SO difficult. I’m sure Rawling had some pretty good editors, especially later on in the series. You can actually SEE a HUGE change in her style between Book One and Book Seven, so you know her editing crew changed as well.


But when you’re reading either the web site, or the “about” [page] on Upwork.com, the editor SHOULD convey some sort of understanding that the writing is supposed to be compelling, or marketable, or transformative – like a HIGHER PURPOSE for the writing. If the web site or the “about” page is all about grammar and subject-verb agreement, like skip [to the] next. All right  Does that, kind of, make sense? I want to give you some stuff that’s actionable so that when you’re out there looking you know what to look for.


So, how they talk about, [and] how they present their own services is really important, in addition to the fact that you want them to be COOL, and would want to hang out with them, because their voice is going to show up in your writing. So as editor we have a little phrase that we use. We say that we try to “Do no harm to the writing”. Kesha will appreciate that, [since] she is a physician [laughter]. But editors have a similar philosophy. We try to do no harm to your WRITING. But we’re humans! We have our own voice, and our own styles. so if we’re in there fixing up sentences there are going to be times where, for instance, I’m going to start sentences with “but”. That’s my style. That’s my voice.


MIguel Rubbio ( https://twitter.com/MiguelangRubio ) : What do if there is going to be some Spanish or some other language in the story?


Morgan MacDonald ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac) :  …Miguel says, “What [to] do if there is going to be some Spanish or some other language in the story?”… Get two separate editors. Get one for English, and one for Spanish. There ARE a lot of bilingual editors, so you might think about that as well. [In] that way it can be ONE person. But then when you get to proofreading, I don’t know. This would be the ideal scenario: find ONE editor who is bilingual, [and] who does copyediting, and get that person to edit it, [and then] ask them for their recommendation for a proofreader. You might need TWO proofreaders. I don’t know the answer to that. But find one person who you think you TRUST, who’s bilingual and knows editing, and whose voice you like. Because even though we say that we’re going to do no harm, we’re going to change sentences up in a way that maybe is a bit more FORMAL style, or a bit more CONVERSATIONAL style, is a bit more by the rules, [or] a bit more BENDS the rules. So it’s just going to happen that occasionally there are going to be blips here and there, or we’re going to change things and it’s going to be according to how we think it should sound, which is affected by our own voice.  It’s just [that] we’re human [laughter]. So take that into account  If your editor sounds like a ROBOT when you’re emailing back and forth, that’s a problem. Hire someone else [laughter]. The BEST way to know your editors voice is to get on the PHONE with them if you can.


MIguel Rubbio ( https://twitter.com/MiguelangRubio ) : Ok sounds good!.


Morgan MacDonald ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac) :  … Miguel says, “Sounds good.”… Yeah. Get on the phone with them, [and] if they can TALK about their craft on they phone in a way that you’re like, “This person knows what they’re talking about!” AND they’re FUN to talk to [that’s a] double win [laughter]. THAT is the ideal combination. So that’s what I have for you guys.


JessR8 ( https://twitter.com/Jess_JRussell ) : At the end of the day who wins in disputes? The author always wins?


Morgan MacDonald ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac) :  … “At the end of the day who wins in disputes?”… This is Jessica… “The author always wins?”… In MY book, I think it’s ultimately the author’s work, and so it should be whatever you want. You know? I mean, I’ll make suggestions. Heck, when I’m editing I am so in the ZONE, in the WORDS, that I literally just like make changes – it’s in “track changes”, so you can see everything that has been changed – but then it’s up to the AUTHOR to go back and revert back. So if they didn’t like something they, kind of, have to change it back themselves. But I’ve had very few people tell me they didn’t like what I changed about their writing.


So I don’t know. Ultimately I think the author WINS, but as the author you’ve got to be really careful and think about whether it’s your PRIDE that is wanting to win [the] argument, or whether it really is [that] you have a good reason for wanting to win the argument.


If you have an editor who is not willing to BEND on something, that is actually a bad sign. If your editor is like, “No, this is the way it is!” that person is not flexible enough to be [editing?]…


JessR8 ( https://twitter.com/Jess_JRussell ) : I think I have been thinking too much on editing as I go.


Morgan MacDonald ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac) :  …Jessica says, “I think I have been thinking too much on editing as I go.”… Yes. You should NOT be editing as you go. You should do ZERO editing as you go. If Ron Estrada were here he would back me up. “Fast draft”. The first draft is a fast draft. Exactly. Just write and edit later. Everyone KNOWS this. Just do it. That’s why I like working against a timer, because it keeps me focused and I’m less likely to go back and try to edit as I write. So that’s what I do.


There is one more thing. Oh, if you want to make doubly sure that you want to work with this person before you give them, let’s say, a whole book, give them three blog post. Let them do three blog posts and see how they do those.


JessR8 ( https://twitter.com/Jess_JRussell ) : That's what I have to do in my current compliance job so it's a habit that is slowing my down.


Morgan MacDonald ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac) :  Jessica says, “That's what I have to do in my current compliance job so it's a habit that is slowing my down.”… Oh yeah. I can see how that would be a bad habit, but just keep trying to implement. Just remind yourself, when you’re sitting down to write, like, “Reframe. I’m NOT at my job [laughter]. I’m writing for fun. I’m writing for this book.”


JessR8 ( https://twitter.com/Jess_JRussell ) : Changing habits [and] mindset.


Morgan MacDonald ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac) :  … Changing your habits [and] mindset… Exactly. And just REMIND yourself. Set yourself in a different environment. Like light a candle, get a glass of wine, [and] make it however you need to make it [laughter] in order for it to feel good and creative and flowing – and NOT like your job.


But if you want to test out an editor a really good test is to get three blog posts. One is not enough, and anything longer than three blog posts [is where] maybe you will end up paying too much [laughter] to be perfectly honest. So I think three blog posts is about 1,500 to 2,000 words [which] is a really good test. So that way you get to see how they would help you with introductions and conclusions – which are very tricky. [Also] if they help you move things around and add other suggestions those are good signs. If they JUST go into all three blog posts and fix subject-verb agreement and capitalisation that’s not helpful [laughter]. So three blog posts is, sort of, my standard test for someone. If you’re not blogging I would ask, “Why?” [laughter]. But if you’re not blogging and you want some OTHER test, if you have anything that’s close to 2,000 words that’s just about right. Something that’s finished. Some people say [to] give them a chapter. A chapter is only MODERATELY helpful, because they don’t get to edit the beginning and the end. There’s a lot of unanswered questions, because it’s chapter one [so] you haven’t GOT to the rest of the book [laughter].


JessR8 ( https://twitter.com/Jess_JRussell ) : Rorschach? Lol.


Morgan MacDonald ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac) :  … Rorschach … I’m not sure I know what that MEANS. Jessica. What’s Rorschach? I’m going to have to Google that [laughter] … But, so I don’t know that giving them chapter one to edit is really that helpful. I like to give them something – and I hire editors, so I actually go through this process quite a lot…


JessR8 ( https://twitter.com/Jess_JRussell ) :  Ink blot psych test. Lol.


Morgan MacDonald ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac) :  …Oh, ink blot psych test!…Ooo, that would be interesting. I don’t know how I would do against the ink blot psyche test. I don’t know if I WANT to take that test. But when I hire new editors – because I start relationships with them, and have them edit a lot of stuff BEFORE I even bring them onto my TEAM.  But I always give them stuff that has a beginning and an end, so I can see how they’re thinking through the whole PROCESS of the piece. So that’s my recommendation for you guys.


Do yáll have any other questions about finding an editor? Upwork.com IS really pretty good. You just have to be discerning. If someone is editing for $5 an hour I would say [to] try someone who values their work a little bit more [laughter], because then if they value their OWN work they’ll value YOUR work as well. It’s, kind of, a reciprocal thing. So you want someone who’s really on board and is going to help you in your writing, and it’s not $5 an hour [laughter]! That’s all I have to say about that.


There are LOTS of fantastic overseas editors and freelancers in general. You just need to, kind of, go through this process and make sure that you’re going to work with them really well.


Any other questions?  Thank you guys for hanging out. It’s been fun, as always. And I will see you guys tomorrow. I don’t remember what we’re talking about tomorrow, but it…


JessR8 ( https://twitter.com/Jess_JRussell ) : This has been great! Thanks Morgan   


Morgan MacDonald ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac) :  … Oh, you’re welcome, Jessica… Oh, we’re going to be talking about WHEN you get feedback from your editor, how do you HANDLE that. How do you PROCESS it, and how do you make revisions? So that will be FUN [laughter].




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