Hi all!

I wanted to share some exciting news. I’m joining the team* at The Reading List, an editorial agency created by Lindsey Alexander and her partner, Salvatore Borriello. I met Lindsey through the Editorial Freelancers Association a while back and was delighted to meet her when I moved back to Raleigh, NC. I’m honored to work alongside all of these incredible editors; I know I will learn so much from their work experience and skills.

I’ve also started my first course through the University of Chicago Graham School toward earning my Editing certificate—something I’ve wanted to pursue for a long time. Cheers to new editorial adventures!

* I am a freelancer for The Reading List, not a full-time employee. I’m still living that entrepreneur life! 🙂

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Hey wordsmith!

I realized people stumbling upon my editing blog posts may not realize I’ve been talking about my life as an editor over on my YouTube channel. I’m overdue for another relevant video, but go ahead and hop over if you’re looking for more info on the best editing books, how I became an editor, and more! x

Edit on, and may the Oxford comma be with you!

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This past week, something unsettling happened. Well, to be real with you, a lot of unsettling things have happened recently: We uprooted and moved (back) to a hustling city we love, for starters. This place was our home, and we left it for a short time and have happily returned after three years.

This move left me a little shell-shocked (excuse the drama), stressed, and sick. I wasn’t prepared to dive into our “new” life, which happened to run head-first into our “old” life. Ah, but that’s another story for another time. . . .

No, this particularly unsettling incident happened in the middle of church. My friend, rather ruthlessly, confiscated my pen in the middle of the service because, well, my hand seemed to be doing something simultaneously impressive and horrifying: editing. Editing the bulletin. Was my brain on? I don’t know.

I literally began to edit the church bulletin without fully realizing—like a nervous tic. And then, even when I knew what I was doing, I continued copyediting.

“Who are you?” My friend asks, playfully. But his question awakens something in me. It was as if my hand—or rather, my editor-brain—had taken on a life of its own. I couldn’t seem to turn it off, even though I was truly enjoying the sermon and worship. And now, I can’t decide if this is a harmless, albeit undesirable, habit in my life—like chewing my finger nails—or if there are repercussions much worse than I now realize. What if I peel away the layers and discover I have the dark supervillain-esque potential to become that embittered editor every grammar nerd fears? Does every editor have to face this reality like an existential crisis? Does every editor carry the burden of holding back the compulsion to change every hyphen to an em dash? Are you there CMOS? It’s me, Mollie.

What’s strange is that this horrifying moment kind of snuck up (sneaked? OMG WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?) on me. I have always been proud of how chill I am as an editor. I don’t think what’s grammatically correct should ever get in the way of the authenticity of voice and story. I think there’s a real danger in being overly critical (which is why I think “Bullet In the Brain” by Tobias Wolff is the best short story of all time). So, what’s going on? Is this merely a muscle memory reaction or somewhat of a snag in my heart preventing me from truly enjoying beauty?

After the service, the pen-stealer asks more about my compulsive behavior. “I bet you can’t read poetry and enjoy it like you used to,” he says. I rattle my brain trying to remember the last time I read poetry, let alone enjoyed it. “No,” I say, “I guess I can’t.”

And that’s when it all hits me: the lack of creativity. The drive to write my own stories, blog, scribble in a journal . . . it lies dormant in my heart, and I can’t remember the last time I created something for myself that I truly loved. This is what’s really unsettling. I love helping other writers create something bigger than themselves, making it the best version it can be. But at the end of the day, I don’t crave the same fate for myself.

So, here’s my dilemma, fellow editors. How do I turn off the editor-brain when it’s time to let inspiration strike in my own work? Do you struggle with this, too? If you don’t, is it because you actively do something to keep the editing-terrors away? GIVE ME ALL THE SECRETS . . . because, honestly, I don’t trust my hand around signs, pamphlets, or bulletins any more.

4 THINGS I’VE LEARNED AS A BIZ BOSS LADY

I can’t believe how much this little brain-child business of mine has grown in the past year. I’m humbled and honored to walk alongside authors, publishers, and business professionals on their publishing journeys and creative project goals! I’ve learned a lot over the past year about what it means to be a freelance editor and writer—and a lot of what I’ve learned has nothing to do with editing or publishing. It’s amazing how our professional lives can spill out into our personal lives!

As a freelancer, I’ve learned the following:

1. YOU CANNOT SWEEP WORK STRESS UNDER THE RUG.

Because I try to maintain a healthy work-life balance, it’s easy for me to neglect the stress of deadlines or client interactions when five o’clock rolls around. Unfortunately, sweeping stress under the rug means I look completely relaxed on the outside, when I’m actually feeling the pressure and stress on the inside. I can’t totally “leave the office” and adopt the out-of-sight-out-of-mind attitude that most people can cling to in the evenings or on the weekends.

As a result, I realized I needed to communicate my deadlines and crazy schedule to my dear husband, who, unfortunately, cannot read my mind. It sounds silly, but it took a while to figure this one out. My coping mechanism to all the stress—and the way I procrastinated—was to pretend the pressure to deliver didn’t exist, and that I was free as a bird. I’ve learned that it’s important to acknowledge the pressure for so many reasons. It’s actually freeing to admit when things are a little crazy. And guess what? My husband wants to care for me during the busy seasons and help me carry some of the load, so finally blurting out just how busy I am is actually a huge relief. Dealing with the stress and being honest with myself—and my spouse—removes some of the burden. Imagine that!

2. THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE SAVES LIVES. 

Okay, so it doesn’t actually save lives, but I’ve found that timing myself—particularly in twenty-five-minute increments and little breaks in between—is a wonderful way to boost productivity. Editing is a meticulous process that demands total concentration and strains the eyes. Giving myself five-minute breaks or fifteen-minute breaks helps me stick with it in the long run. It really is like a marathon, not a sprint. Having a timer to keep me on track of projects is also immensely helpful—not only to limit distractions, but also to track my hours for future estimates and quotes. I’ve really gotten into a rhythm; I know how long a certain type of editing or project will take me, which really makes all the difference with scheduling.

3. PEOPLE WON’T ALWAYS “GET IT.” 

As a freelancer who works from home, people tend to automatically assume I have a ton of flexibility and that I set my own hours. It’s true that I do have some flexibility—I can usually schedule doctors’ appointments during the day and go grocery shopping at 11 a.m.—but that doesn’t always mean I have hours to kill with my friends at the coffee shop or that I’m down with unexpected visits during the work day.

I may work in my PJs most of the time (it’s true!), but I promise you: I am working hustling. I’ve had to learn that people won’t always understand what it means to work from home as a freelancer, so I need to set appropriate boundaries and protect my home office time.

4. IT’S WORTH IT TO GO THE EXTRA MILE. 

I know this is a cliché, but it’s so true: It’s so important to go the extra mile with clients. There’s no greater feeling than exceeding clients’ expectations. If I’m working 59 hours on a project, I want to make it count. Why coast your way through, only to deliver a half-assed job? When you go the extra mile, it is not only satisfying to receive positive feedback, but your clients stick around.

Disclaimer: Going the extra mile ≠ an unhealthy pursuit of perfection.

In my business, editing and revising is all about the process. Sometimes, there are drafts upon drafts before a better product emerges. And guess what? That’s okay. In fact, that’s where the magic happens. One thing I’ve learned as a biz boss lady is that there’s no way to kill off joy and creativity faster than trying to be a perfectionist. Even as an expert in your field, there is always more to learn. In fact, I think it does a huge disservice to your clients to assume otherwise.

Continued education is huge, so don’t stress over reaching that moment when you’ve officially “arrived.” Keep striving toward different goals, refining your process and skills, and giving yourself time and grace to learn new things.

Freelancer friends: How do you manage stress and *own it* as a boss? What wisdom can you share for aspiring freelancers? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

If you’ve gone through the self-editing check list after completing your novel, then it’s time to (deep breath) *gently* hand over your manuscript to a professional editor. Listen. I know this is rough; your book is your baby.

You probably have a few misconceptions about editors. They’re pretentious, snarky, scary monsters who will murder your manuscript with red ink, killing all of your darlings, judging every misplaced comma, and cackling at their computer screens when they get to write rejection letters (if you’re submitting to a traditional publisher).

This description couldn’t be further from the truth. Caring, professional editors want to edit your words, not your voice. We value your story and applaud your commitment to completing it. We also value your readers and strive to make sure your words connect with those who will love and cherish your story. And for the record, we dread sending rejections.

WRITING (EDITING) IS HARD WORK

At the same time, we will push your story and read through it with a fine-tooth comb. Your book deserves that kind of attention! Editing is not a bed of roses. Writing is hard work, and so is editing.

Maxwell Perkins—editor of Fitzgerald, Wolfe, Hemingway, and more—once said, “If you are not discouraged about your writing on a regular basis, you may not be trying hard enough. Any challenging pursuit will encounter frequent patches of frustration. Writing is nothing if not challenging.”

. . . LIKE FALLING IN LOVE

chicago-manual-of-styleAfter all, most rewarding things in life don’t simply fall in our laps, right? But how do you choose the right editor? Children’s book editor and author, Cheryl Klein, wrote that the submissions process is like dating—“an intensely personal endeavor where everyone is looking for the right match.” I think the same is true for independent authors seeking freelance editors to self-publish—or to polish their manuscripts before submitting to a publisher. “Editors are looking to find books they love. Writers are looking to find editors who can help their books be their best,” she said. “There is a giant pool of all of us out there. And when it doesn’t work out, it can be the most depressing thing in the world.”

But hey, just because you have to endure the “there’s always more fish in the sea” talk doesn’t mean you won’t find someone who’s right for you. And as Cheryl reiterates, there is nothing better than finding that match and watching an author-editor relationship flourish.

To find the right editor for you, consider the following:

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MANUSCRIPT?

Would you classify your manuscript as commercial? Literary? What kind of readers do you envision for your book? The more you know about your manuscript’s strengths, what kind of readers it will appeal to, and what you hope to accomplish, the easier it will be to identify the right editor. Just like in the dating world, you want your manuscript to be “comfortable in its own skin.” Why? Because communication is truly the most important part of any author-editor relationship. The more you can articulate your editing needs or your manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses, the better.

LOOK FOR AN EDITOR WHO PROVIDES A FREE SAMPLE EDIT.

The editor you’re “talking” to won’t carve out the time to provide a complimentary sample edit? RED FLAG. Don’t waste your time on this one, folks. If you’re casually dating someone who doesn’t pay any attention to you from the get-go, why move forward? A sample edit is an essential ingredient to finding a good match; it’s also a window into the editor’s skills and editing style. The right editor welcomes the opportunity to demonstrate his or her editing skills. Supplying a complimentary edit is also beneficial for editors: it provides insight into what, specifically, the project entails. Often, authors are unaware of what kind of editing they really need. By editing a few pages or a chapter of a manuscript, the editor will have a better understanding of what an author needs, and whether he or she is the right person for the job.

LOOK FOR AN EDITOR WHO VALUES DEADLINES AND UPFRONT COMMUNICATION.

The right freelance editor will provide all payment requirements, contracts, and a basic outline of the editorial process (deadlines included), before you “sign on the dotted line.” You don’t want to work with someone who surprises you with unwanted fees halfway through or at the end of the project. Just like in a relationship, you want to know what you’re getting into before you start dating. Editors don’t want to work with authors who are MIA after an editing project, and authors want to know what to expect—in case they send over their precious manuscript and only hear crickets for months. Authors are typically less stressed when editors have a plan of action and an editorial process. Sure, some projects can expand overtime, transform, or lead to other separate editing projects (this isn’t a marriage, right?), but overall, you don’t want to be in the dark about deadlines, payment, and general editing practices.

LOOK FOR AN EDITOR WHO REFERS TO THE CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE—OFTEN

The Chicago Manual of Style is—in the dating world—the equivalent of good ol’ family values. You know, quality. Top-notch. A keeper. The kind of boy who respects his mother and throws passion and hard work into everything he does. You know what I’m saying. The CMOS is the moral code that ultimately allows you to entrust your vulnerable little heart (and manuscript) into the hands of your editor. Check your sample edit and make sure your potential editor refers to the Chicago Manual of Style often. They need to be well-versed in it—drenched in it. The Chicago Manual is the SPARK, people. It’s either there, or it’s not.

LOOK FOR AN EDITOR WHO WANTS YOU TO GROW

Let’s face it: the best people in our lives are the ones who push us to be better versions of ourselves. Of course, when I say this, I realize it’s all in the delivery. Look for an editor with a gentle but firm approach to help you grow as a writer. You don’t want an editor who doesn’t care enough to tell you if you’re making the same errors over and over. The most rewarding part of being an editor, in my opinion, is teaching writers how to improve their craft. I strive to correct common errors, sure, but I love to help authors understand why I’m correcting errors in the first place. Not all editors do this. Make sure you find someone who inspires you to be a better writer!

I could go on and on about the importance of finding the right editor and perhaps I will expand on this topic later in the New Year. I’d love to hear from you, authors. What do you look for in an editor? In the mean time, write (and edit) with courage, friends! 😉