Blog appreciation: February

Here are some posts by other editors and writers that I’ve enjoyed reading recently.

Why you need and how to work with a book indexer: a guide for authors by Paula Clarke Bain
As Paula explains in this fascinating article, many authors are now routinely asked by publishers to organise their own indexing. While some will opt to index their books themselves, plenty will employ a professional indexer, and there are excellent reasons why they should. Just as editors tend to bristle at the suggestion that anyone with spell check and a bit of common sense could do their job, the same is true for indexers. Indexing is a highly skilled and specialist task, where an aptitude for the work and years of experience, plus having the right software, help to ensure an index that is useful, elegant … and sometimes even funny.

Do Stories Have a Universal Shape? by J.D. Lasica (on Jane Friedman’s blog)

I’m not (usually) a fiction editor, but I enjoy reading fiction and have spent time writing it. I’ve since concluded that I’m not really a fiction writer, at least for now, and this article helped to shed some light on why that might be. The post looks at new research on the decades-old idea that all stories can be reduced to common patterns. Maybe we’d all like to imagine, when we write, that we’re saying something that has never been said before, in a manner that is totally new. Accepting the existence of a list of basic story archetypes means letting go of that notion. But perhaps that’s what makes good stories resonate … not to mention sell in their bucketloads.

Is Line Editing a Lost Art? by Nick Ripatrazone (on Lit Hub)

I’ve seen this post widely shared on social media, and with good reason. Editors love reading about their art, and what is possible in the hands of the truly accomplished practitioner. I think I’d probably been an editor for about nine years before I even encountered the idea of ‘line editing’. It’s certainly not something anyone’s ever paid me to do since, at least not explicitly, and yet a lot of my work does involve line editing, or something a lot like it. What’s described in this article is something else again, though. Reading through a manuscript with an author and working together on every line! I’m not sure if that sounds like heaven or hell, if I’m totally honest, but it brings home the true dedication to clarity of expression that’s theoretically possible in this profession, when time and budget allow.

Reviving my editing business by Louise Bolotin (on the CIEP blog)

I love this blog post because it is brave (Louise doesn’t shy away from admitting that she lost pretty much all of her work in one go, last spring), and because it has a happy ending (she managed emphatically to ‘build back better’). The pandemic has affected us all in so many different ways. Freelancing always involves a degree of uncertainty, and now more so than ever. I’m really happy to read of a fellow editor finding genuine opportunities and positives in the wake of what seemed like disaster.

The Art of Muddling Through by Helen Stevens

On a related theme, Helen writes about how the current situation has forced many of us to adapt our working practices. However, she puts a positive spin on this need to be flexible, arguing that it’s what successful freelancers need to be doing anyway. She shows how a resourceful approach can benefit all aspects of our businesses, from initial ideas and finding work, to setting working hours, resolving technical difficulties and dealing with all kinds of unexpected events and emergencies.

How to be a trustworthy freelancer by Hazel Bird

Hazel is always a source of great and practical advice. (Actually, contrary to what I wrote above about coming to terms with not being able to say something that has never been said before, I do tend to read Hazel’s blog while nodding and thinking ‘I don’t think anyone’s ever quite expressed that before. And they definitely haven’t expressed it as well.’) This post is no different. As Hazel says, it’s vital that our clients feel they can trust us. But as she then explains, cultivating this trust goes further than simply delivering what we say we will, on time and within budget. These are the basics, and just doing those – while they are essential – is not enough to stand out. What will set us apart is managing the higher-level stuff, like asking sensible questions, being confident in our abilities while also knowing when to defer to the client, looking ahead, and solving problems rather than creating them. Building and maintaining trust, as Hazel puts it, is ephemeral. It’s part of a coherent business whole, and it should run through everything we do.

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