Dear Writers: A Case for Clarification
Guest Post by Lessie Kauzlarich
Dear Writers: A Case for Clarification
As I was perusing (read: passively stalking) an editor group Facebook feed the other day, my brain imploded. You know the drill. You’re scrolling along without a care in the world and then a post mildly piques your interest—mostly because you can’t read the entire post from the get-go anymore. So, I tapped “more…” like the fool I am, and then it happened. My brain = donezo.
I should probably give you some context before I go Scorched Earth all over the internet. Big breath in…and out. Okay. While I have been a writer and editor for most of my life and even hold a degree in the field, my professional life had always been editing-adjacent. Over the years, I’ve written and edited countless papers, reports, resumes, proposals, stories, and yes, even books. However, this was a hobby until I started my freelance editing business in recent years, so I wasn’t immersed in the community of the craft. As I researched my new venture, I discovered something: literally every editor (myself included) uses the same words but applies them slightly differently.
The foundation for my ire is laid, so, let’s get back to Facebook. The brain-melting exchange went something like this:
Original Post: Hey, editor friends! I’m trying to price out my [insert type of editing here] services. My current plan is to [insert plan here]. I’d love to know your thoughts!
Editor 1: Great question! Did you search previous posts? I’m fairly sure someone has asked something similar before.
Editor 2: Following. (There’s always one, right?)
Editor 3: This is how I calculate my package pricing, as well as what I include: [insert detailed bulleted list here]. However, everyone does things and uses terms slightly differently, so you might not include or do everything I laid out.
While Editor 3’s response was the most helpful, herein lies the problem. Every freelance editor uses the same words to describe a similar, but not completely identical, process. This is for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is, like writers, every editor is their own human being with their own process, skills, strengths, and experience.
On one hand, this is an amazing opportunity for customization and fit (we’ll get into this a little more later). However, on the other hand, how is an author—especially a brand new one—supposed to sift through the variations? If your brain, like mine, begins to ooze out of your ears when you realize one editor’s “manuscript assessment” is another’s “initial review” when all you want is help with your words, the following suggestions might ease the anxieties of embarking upon your writer-editor relationship journey.
Suggestion #1: Ask clarifying questions.
This may be obvious, but I can’t overstate the importance of communication and clarification. Editors generally have a clear idea of their process, from pricing to completion, and it can be intimidating. However, when you see terms or packages on their website, ask what they entail. Ask what they mean by “copy” verses “line” editing. Let them know what you are looking for, as well as questions you want them to consider when they are reading through your text. You are essentially asking someone to chop up your creative child, after all. If you don’t know what something means, ask. If you want something specific, ask. Editors often tweak their packages for each manuscript (individualization is life), so get yours! This leads me to my next suggestion.
Suggestion #2: Don’t be afraid to send your entire project.
Writers are sometimes (understandably) wary of shipping their newborn word baby off for judgment. However, I’m here to tell you it’s not only the absolute best way to get the most accurate price, timeline, and understanding of your manuscript needs, but it’s also extremely helpful for your editor and, in the long run, your professional relationship. When you send your first five, most edited chapters as a sample, your potential editor may not understand the full scope of your manuscript. So later, when they come back and say, “Hey, this is going to take me longer” or, “This is going to be an additional cost because of x”…well, they won’t.
Send a PDF if you like or share via Google Drive with specific permissions—whatever you need to feel comfortable. Let them see it in all its glory (or not). I know it can be hard to rip off the band-aid, but it’s worth it. When you give your potential editor the full picture, everybody wins. (Side note: This is also a helpful way for editors to understand if something is beyond their scope, so you might get a reliable referral out of it even if they aren’t a good fit!)
Suggestion #3: Hold the good ones close.
When I say “good,” I don’t mean it in contrast to “bad.” While there are, of course, objective skills an editor should have, your “good” editor is probably different from my “good” editor. Although you and I are both writers, we are also different creators. It’s an intimate relationship, writing and editing—one that will be forever bonded.
I often say, “Creativity is collectivism.” Writers need editors and editors need writers. The circle is never-ending and our relationships with one another are everything. If you’ve found an editor you love, stay with them. Talk to them even when you don’t have a project. Build a relationship. And, on the inverse, if you use an editor for a project who never feels quite right, don’t be afraid to look elsewhere for your next project. Your words need what they need, but so do you.
Suggestion #4: Don’t forget to ask questions.
Yes. This is a repeat. Seriously. Ask.
Now that I’ve written all this out, I guess it’s not so upsetting after all. Ultimately, I’m an editor who loves other editors, a writer who loves other writers, and all the variations of love between the two. In any relationship, we must foster community, communication, and personalization to promote health and growth. We who create with language are on the same team and we want the same thing: for writing to be the best it can be so it reaches the exact right people.
Keep writing, keep editing, and keep creating. The world needs your words.
Every author is different, every editor is different, and every manuscript is different. After spending over a decade in education and mental health spaces where individualization is key, this continues to be a foundational value of my editing, rewriting, and creative services. As a professional writing major turned educator and counselor, I use my sharp eye for detail and feel for feel to help my clients transform their work in progress to a work of art. Specializing in memoir and transformational nonfiction centering mental health and personal growth, let’s elevate your newly-birthed manuscript (or even your old, crochety one). Words change the world—why not yours?