It fills me with terror when I see short turnaround periods offered for manuscripts on some freelance service platforms, where folk offering many different services can utilise to garner business. Often a guaranteed timeline is presented upfront without assessing the writing requiring the work. Is it arrogance or ignorance of editing skills involved?
Editing speeds vary from person to person. Yes! this is a set of skills that requires the human brain, not AI, not an app!
Multiple factors feed into how long a project will take, such as the type of editing, word count, language(s) used and the overall condition of the manuscript. Another critical factor is the editor’s familiarity with the writer’s work. The more familiar, the more we know the nuances and common errors that arise and the slicker one can become in completing a manuscript.
When I see small house publishers or independent writers churning out book after book, I wonder how much time is spent on this essential process and how many passes a book undergoes before publication. I also wonder ‘who’ is editing. It’s a dangerous assumption that any writer or reviewer can also be an effective editor. Editing is far more than reading and spotting the odd typo. Unfortunately, the latter is a common ignorance in particular writing circles and some so-called ‘editors’.
As a serious writer with pride in your work, you should consider these questions too. Consider what an editor and publisher can genuinely do to add value to your process before signing a contract.
From my desk (and I’ve already explained how many factors play in), I average 1k-2k words per hour. I reiterate this is editing, not reading.
As a simple example, a 60k manuscript = 60 hours of work. What would you expect to be paid for working 60 hours?
This little example is worth considering when you are pricing an editor — who will have additional tasks before the edit begins on your piece. The essential set-up stages also cost them time. And as the saying goes, in business, time is money.
When I set up my editing business, Word Refinery, I offered introductory rates. As a passionate freelancer and supporter of creatives, I supported small publishing houses with additional discounts at my own expense. Independent businesses incur more costs than just time — which is one of the most valuable commodities. And, of course, the cost of everything is rising worldwide. With that, Word Refinery fees are under review.
Professional relationships between writer and editor or publisher and editor require a two-way level of respect. Fees are an integral component of that.
I will admit something that, like so many independent writers, can be torn apart. And I also acknowledge there can be pitfalls – some gatekeepers regard this audacious move as career suicide regardless of experience or qualifications.
Not only do I professionally edit works for other writers, businesses and publishers, but I do something else regarded as a grave sin.
I, as a writer, self-edit, and I publish it!
I must be insane, right?
Imagine an artist controlling their art! Ensuring every stroke of the brush is theirs. The absurdity!
Editing is an independent skill in writing. This is a fact. With that, it is true that an editor isn’t necessarily a skilled storyteller and vice-versa. These can be common misconceptions. I have read poorly self-edited work and work edited by so-called editors who were glorified spell-checkers and saw themselves as prescriptive grammarians, thus stripping a piece of style and substance. Editing (in the independent writing and publishing world) is a highly sought-after skill and grossly undervalued.
I have spent much of my life writing and editing across many forms, and when I began publishing books in 2018, I honestly did not consider passing them through an external editor’s desk. Ignorance at the time was perhaps in part to play. I, admittedly, did not consider hiring an editor as part of the process. And now, with a couple of years of publishing experience where I have learnt something new with every title and even when working with others, would I change it? Personally, no.
Why? Well, I’ve worked with editors and writers who take prescriptive approaches, and in such methods, so not hold a place in creative writing. I’ve also been ‘edited’ by terrible communicators who have ignorantly ‘corrected’ spellings of Celtic or Scots words to a form of English, thus destroying critical seeds of the story and publishing their mistakes in my work under my name. An editor’s job is to polish and enhance, to bring out the best in a writer’s work, not diminish their voice and make them look stupid. I’ve learned many lessons from both. In my writing and skilled self-editing, I’d rather make my own mistakes that I can correct than have someone else do it and not take responsibility and rectify their shortcomings.
Rigid, prescriptive processes can have their place when writing for a corporate audience and developing educational materials, in which I have much experience. But artistically, a prescriptive approach to editing has no place; one size does not fit all.
My choice to self-edit is not one I take lightly. As a freelance editor, I am not ignorant about the depth of such a task, and as with any other piece of written material that crosses my desk, I consider, correct and develop: punctuation, spelling, syntax, morphology, overall structure, make cuts of redundancies, tautologies and lines or passages that don’t drive the story forward, and of course, consider developmental opportunities, and the author or publisher’s specified needs and style which I always discuss prior to working with them. I consider the narrative voice and those of the characters to ensure they read authenticity. And another vital component is style — a piece of creative writing should have rhythm and motion, like a great painting or music. If it’s rigid and static, as it would be following a prescriptive approach, it would be stale.
Even with such vigorous attention to my work and my clients, I am not infallible. No editor is, and I don’t trust anyone who portrays themselves as so. Neither should you.
Hogmanay nears, as does what can barely be avoided — the annual consolidation, the ‘review’ as we step over the next threshold.
It’s been another year of tumultuous news and events stabbing the air in-house and in close proximity. Health issues have arisen in many, some near and dear, some farther but no less dear to me—several with fatal implications, where time somehow runs faster on the clock. My heart has shattered a few times. Such is the way it goes.
Covid hit my house with a bang. I was pregnant, and the baby, Averey, died inside my womb when I had the worst symptoms. Since our second bout in July, long Covid symptoms have persisted, including with my young children. The year that we hoped to grab some social normality has demanded much push.
One of the many benefits of home educating (not home-schooling) is that the pressure and stress on children not to ‘fall behind’ on a prescribed curriculum and being ‘marked’ by ‘poor attendance’ due to health issues beyond control is absent, avoiding undue pressure on my kids’ mental health, to which almost anyone who has been schooled and has health issues can relate. All public services in the U.K., including schools, seem to be on a steep downward slope, faster than ever before. The unrest is palpable. That being said, home educating isn’t all skipping through the daisies! Many days have their challenges, and being the literal full-time parent and educator is tiring — and that was before the long-covid fatigue. Still, we get each other through, and the alternative isn’t an option.
As always, writing has been a constant. Separate from my creative writing, it’s been my introvert-central-management system since childhood. Sketching is too.
Professionally, I have had the pleasure of editing works by some fantastic writers this year — some serious jaw-dropping, inspiring talent. One of the last short stories I edited had me reaching for my inhaler! That author painted a vivid anxiety, paranoia-ridden piece in their protagonist — I felt it all! The subversive angle of the work while playing off the backdrop was skilfully moving. I was in awe. In the massive catalogue of literary genres, the immense skill some horror writers portray is hugely underrated, all due to that simple label ‘horror’. You’ll find the asthma attack-inducing story in KJK Publishing’s The Horror Collection: Sapphire Edition.
This year Ruthann Jagge and I joined forces and created Brazen Folk Horror to share our collaborative works. We have been sharing weekly updates there and have many more ideas for the future. As with this site, readers can subscribe to receive those updates directly in their mailbox. The debut collaborative novel under our exclusive in-house imprint, Delevan House, releases on the 1st of February 2023, and the second book in that series is underway. I’ve shared before about how I adore working with her. We’ve each had much to contend with this year. At times, we’ve both been swimming against a ferocious tide, but we have prevailed and have created something unique from Scottish and Celtic folk inspiration. You better believe my girl and I are indeed Brazen as fuck.
Getting back into academic study has been challenging to make space for, but somehow It’s been working out, in sacrifice of sleep! I passed my first module and started my second towards my English Language and Literature degree. The second part has been immensely inspiring. I am enjoying it far more than I anticipated. It’s ignited old and new passions for my own language, those that I’ve been surrounded with and the broader scope of the world. I’ve been evaluating how this entwines cultural and individual identity. This leg of the course has lit a few fires.
Onto the books published under Clan Witch this year:
Asylum Daughter — my psychological horror novella set in Glasgow, Scotland. I’m proud of how this piece turned out. I loved writing it and got to exorcise the asylum.
The Crash of Verses by Rafik Romdhani — this is Romdhani’s second published collection. His poetry is among my favourites of recent years. If you have not read him, pick up this book. He is an exceptionally skilled modern poet.
Incesticide: Collected Horror — my second collection of short horror fiction. It includes nine stories featuring urban folk horror, a touch of splatterpunk and fairytale horror twisted with BDSM, among other assorted flavours for those who enjoy a taste of different things.
Clan Witch: Found Shadows, my collection of free verse poetry and drabbles. This brings together small pieces scattered with other publishers and some never before published poems. Not all truth and not all fiction.
There have been other written pieces published throughout 2022 in the form of short stories, poetry, articles, forewords and copy for other titles.
What about the birds? Birds have been a significant and symbolic component in my year. Before the baby was born, magpies started frequenting my garden. They never had before. In truth, I was never a fan of the species. (Largely due to a childhood memory or a magpie killing sparrow chicks in a neighbour’s garden. It was such a brutal attack, not for a meal or anything. It seemed to enjoy causing the suffering and instigating horror in the flock of sparrows screaming at the beautiful beastly creature.) Other corvids, such as their cousin, jackdaws, yes. But never the magpie. Of course, going through pregnancy and loss again, this felt strikingly symbolic. For the longest time, there would be one—a dark omen. One for sorrow… as the months have passed, groups of them now frequent the garden along with the smaller birds, which have their daily routines flying in for a feed and natter. Adopting ex-commercial laying hens scheduled to be slaughtered has been tremendously healing. We brought them home less than two weeks after our loss. Building for them and supporting their transition to domestic retirement felt like a productive and helpful use of grief energy. Then the hens have taken in robins. The birds have been inescapable and have become a significant feature of Delevan House too.
Life and creativity can be inseparable, at least elements of each. Twisting tendrils that reach out to be touched and woven into new patterns.
I am wrapping up, as I didn’t intend on doing this kind of update this year! There you have it, a wee mixed-bag summary of 2022. I best be off again, I’m currently hauled up with an unwell small. Her feverish chattering dreams spill out into the dark in a torrent, and I wish, as many parents do — I wish I could soak up the fever and take all the pains away, for always. But life has so much more of that in store. I will have to be content with holding her for as long as I can and as long as she needs.
The darkness is drawing in, approaching the longest of nights, and I wish for what I always do here and the world over, peace.
In times when the costs of everything are skyrocketing, and artists have a hard enough time as is. I implore my fellow writers, even if you’re commanding the mammoth task of editing your own work, do not rely on editing software. It’s a mistake that your work and reputation will suffer for. Can your career afford that? Even premier-rated software is a poor substitute for the human eye and mind. This is especially true of fiction works.
I repeat: Editing software is not a substitute for an editor. It cannot take the place of an editor.
As a freelance editor, I often take on projects where I am the sole editor. Many independent writers, independent publishers and small presses can only afford one editor, whether in-house or by hiring another independent like Word-Refinery. This makes the process different to large house publishers, where multiple rounds are passed through multiple eyes, which incurs greater costs.
In the business of freelance editing, this is where, as an independent, editing software can be a helpful tool. To act as another pair of ‘eyes’ for the independent editor after they have completed their edits.
This is how I utilise such software – as a tool at the end of the more critical manual edit.
This software does not understand tone and the expansive varieties of Englishes. These softwares lack awareness of genre targets. They lack the ability to support the development of a text so that it reads in a way that leaps from the page and is not ‘flat.’ These softwares often apply sensitivity alerts which can strip a piece of its integrity, style and diminish the author’s voice.
Even if you cannot afford to hire an editor, editing software is not a substitute for an editor, even at a premium rate.
English particularly causes such passionate debates. Many folks have definitive rules in their minds—especially those of us working in literature—regardless of which wrung we stand.
I am a massive fan of dialects in life and literature. It’s something that took me a long time to appreciate. As a child, I was taught that regional dialects were a bastardisation of English—they were regarded as dirty. And my young brain felt this to the core—I was stupid or dirty to speak it. This conditioning ran deep, to the point my ears winced towards hearing my own tongue spoken. Growing up in east Glasgow, I was in perpetual horror about how we spoke—our nature, our dialect and culture. I hate that I bought into this attitude hammered in by teachers from such a tender age—devastatingly poor teaching. It prompts self-hate that poisons roots. It’s archaic; the flogging for the so-called incorrect use of English has created ruin in countries like my own. It’s wiped out beautiful languages, demolishing roots of nations and cultures that should have been embraced. The Celtic nations around England have felt this deeply.
In writing, clever use of dialect, particularly in dialogue, adds character authenticity—showcasing communicative repertoire as displayed in real-life. And I am not against it in the narration either, if it fits the work, showcase that diversity with confidence.
Not all readers will ‘get it’, unless it’s a dialect they have experienced. Here, there is a preference for proper English, i.e. Standard British, American or Canadian English. Where the use of non-standard variants, dialects and colloquialisms are branded as errors and bad English. This labelling displays a lack of understanding, ignorance and/or prejudices, or simply the increased reading challenge can create a defensive attitude in a reader. People often feel stupid when they don’t understand something they think they should, so instead of putting the work in, the go-to is to attack the writer for their use of improper language. I’ve struggled too but taking in a piece that incorporates real-life diversity colours literature in a way that standardising the use of English can never do. Writing, storytelling, communication is an art-form — it’s not a flat pack piece of furniture that must be constructed one way. This is especially true of fiction writing. Embracing linguistic diversity is how we can travel the world together without leaving the reading nook. This is how we learn. And no one is above that. Language and how we communicate are ever-changing, and why shouldn’t they?
Gatekeepers of English, who respect and guard the practice of Standard English only, don’t understand or appreciate the beautiful complexity of diversity in language.
Talk about curveball 2022! Another year of madness! There were plans. Big beautiful plans! And while those plans still exist, there has been movement because of those unexpected transitions life has her way of throwing. Personally, I’ve had some family upsets which I predominantly have to deal with and process alone (my partner, of course, has supported as much as one can). I’ve angered, been frustrated, hurt, grieved, run myself in circles, hurt some more, and accepted. Because sometimes that’s all we can do. Accept to find crumbs of peace and carry on. It just takes a little time. It’s a process many are familiar with. It’s been heavy.
Following the acceptances of a triple-pronged hit, I’ve another unexpected ‘bump’, who made himself known in a dream. My kids are excited about another sibling to teach and get up to extra mischief with. Since I have complicated pregnancies, and this one has already given us some wobbles, I’m (again) doing everything within my control to keep this little one inside until late 2022, ideally early 2023. My cervix needs a mantra, and this is the last! The instant physical hit means I’ve been heavily fatigued, and as of that wasn’t enough, I’ve been hammered with mine and the kids’ second bout of Covid of 2022. Because I wasn’t wiped enough by the heavy graft underway in my uterus, I am zapped because my lungs are in battle, and my body feels like it’s been used as a punchbag.
Moving in from all of that, onto the writing front update:
My sassy, immensely talented, and inspiring co-author, Ruthann Jagge and I launched our website, BrazenFolkHorror.com, for our upcoming 2022 release, Delevan House and future projects. Ruthann also released her fantastic solo debut novella in January 2022, The New Girls’ Patient; if you haven’t read her, this is an excellent example of her extraordinary work that should be on any horror fan’s reading list.
I’ve still been editing work for other writers and publishers via Word Refinery and also published poet Rafik Romdhani’s collection, The Crash of Verses.
I am working on my degree course too.
The latest developments has zapped my study schedule. I hope to recover enough to make up for that soon. Deadlines are looming! Anthology wise, unlike in the previous two years, I have not responded to any open calls. My dance card has been packed. I have gratefully received several invite opportunities but unfortunately had to decline several. One that I was able to submit a piece to was with KJK Publishing’s The Horror Collection: Nightmare Edition, which has just been released. It’s the biggest collection of the twelve-book series and worth picking up for a good flavour of many popular independent horror authors currently putting our new materiel.
More still to come for 2022, and 2023 is also beginning to fill up with a couple of accepted invites, continued work with my brazen co-author in crime and at least one (hopefully two) solo release(s). One of which will be a collection of poetry and drabbles, Clan Witch: Found Shadows.
This week welcomes the release of Rafik Romdhani’s second poetry collection, The Crash of Verses. A hearty congratulations to this exemplary wordsmith on his newest release! Working with the author in developing his manuscript to present digital and print editions to the public was a pleasure.
The book is available to purchase via this universal link. Early reviews have been shared on Goodreads, which have been excellent so far (and well deserved). If you pick up the book, please consider leaving an honest review on your prefered platform. These are incredibly valuable to other readers and independent creators alike.
About Rafik Romdhani
Rafik Romdhani was born to Salah Romdhani and Mbarka Romdhani in Rakada Kairouan, Tunisia in 1981. He grew up on a large farm, where like many Tunisian children, he undertook years of heavy, back-breaking work. He is a poet by nature and an English teacher by profession. He studied English Language and Literature in the Faculty of Arts, University of Kairouan and started teaching in 2006 in Tunisia. From 2012 he taught English in the Sultanate of Oman before returning to work again in Tunisian schools in 2016.
Romdhani began writing poetry in 2000. His influences include Charles Baudelaire, Herbert Zbiginiew, T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Seamus Heaney, and Sghaier Aouled Ahmed. His debut collection, Dance of the Metaphors, released in 2021, represents an authentic outpouring of his long-suppressed desire to share his poetry with a wider audience. His second collection, The Crash of Verses, hits global audiences in 2022.
Romdhani’s work tackles themes from his observations of nature, politics, culture, society and humanity. His prose is exquisitely conceived and presented in a form as elegantly classical as it is strikingly modern. In his prose, readers are guaranteed a journey never to be forgotten.
Or what type of editing service would benefit my manuscript?
As a writer, I empathise with this. With so many variances to choose from and the difference in pricing, it can be tricky to decipher if an editor would benefit your project and for what type of editing service you should fork out hard-earned pennies.
To support this decision-making process, at Word Refinery, I offer clients the option of an Editorial Evaluation.
What should a client expect from an Editorial Evaluation?
For £0.01 per word, clients can submit their complete manuscript or a sample for Editorial Evaluation. The prose will be thoroughly analysed, considering: plot, setting, characterisation, voice/style, dialogue, and marketability
The Editorial Evaluation provides a writer (or publisher) with a solid understanding of what work a manuscript requires before publication through a detailed report. The client can utilise this advice and develop the manuscript independently or appoint a dedicated editor to support this work. This exercise helps clients present the best piece possible to the market confidently. Sometimes we need fresh eyes to iron out the kinks, refine the author’s voice and deepen the story.
When considering editing services, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when varying terms, price points, and marketing techniques are at play.
Fiction editing can be funnelled down to two distinct types and the pre-publication quality check of proofreading.
Developmental Editing (Structural Editing or Substantive Editing).
This level of editing historically took place before the writing of the manuscript. Now, it is often the first stage of professional editing once the manuscript is complete. Here your editor will deep dive into the story details and consider various aspects, including structure, pacing, information checking, analysing plot details and execution, the relevance of sub-plots to the entire story, characterisation, setting and delivery.
In most cases, this involves some back and forth between the writer and editor. The editor will offer ‘suggestions’ for the writer to consider to improve the execution — some rewriting may be involved here. Depending on the agreement and relationship, the editor may complete this or support the writer in these changes.
This type of editing requires trust and clear communication between the parties. It is much more involved, therefore denotes more hours of detailed work and a higher fee.
Copy Editing (Line Editing).
This aspect of editing is essential and consists of two key stages. The first is the baseline edit. This aspect focuses on correcting grammar, punctuation usage, spelling corrections, etc. The second stage is the line edit. As the title suggests, this requires the editor to comb and refine the piece line by line, examining specific word choices, sentence structure, clarity, and style. Editors will perform multiple passes on a piece before delivering it back to their client.
Following these two types of editing is the pre-publication quality check. Proofreading is often misinterpreted as editing. It is not. The role involves marking corrections that have slipped through the editing process. Proofreading focuses on spelling, punctuation, spacing, consistency of page style, page numeration, etc. Proofreading is not a substitute for editing.
When hiring an editor, it is essential to understand the differences to make an informed decision and expectations are managed. The process of editing a manuscript is highly involved, time-consuming and vital in supporting writers present a piece that appeals to their target audience. The result should be a fully realised story that connects and engages with its target readers. A product that the writer can be proud of having under their name.