When I say to others, “I run an editing business,” most of them are at least mildly impressed. “Oh!” they reply. “What do you edit?”
“Fiction,” I declare—rather proudly, I might add.
Then come the nods of approval, and the “Huh! Interesting,” and other genial comments of common courtesy that help carry through with the conversation to its (usually) awkward end (it being rather rude, of course, to say, “Pfft—whatever. I really don’t care, and I have other things to do.”).
Now, editing. As an editor, I get this innate sense that laypeople believe we just sit there at our computers all day and stare at words. Perhaps move them around. Or maybe just mess around. But basically sit there at our computers all day. (Authors, on the other hand, totally get what we do – they see the end results!)
Honestly . . . yes, I do sit. Mostly all day. And I do move words around.
But you know what? Editing can be just as much work as a physical job.
Trust me. I’ve done both. In fact, I DO both. I have a physical job in conjunction with my editing business. Granted, they aren’t necessarily connected (although, I HAVE edited a brochure and some website content for my day job bosses), but I do manage to do both. I’m a (very) part-time kennel worker—have been for 12 years—plus a semi-full-time editor who’s run my own editing business for nearly three years now.
Essentially, I’m both a blue collar worker AND a white collar worker—so I’m a light blueish collar worker, I suppose. Or maybe a pale baby blue. Sky blue . . . ? Chartreuse? Wait, that’s green.
Anyway! . . . Lets compare the two.
Kennel: I work. And work. And move around a lot — cleaning/disinfecting kennels, feeding/watering dogs, helping out with doggie playtimes, scooping up and then power washing (yes, I said power washing – with a gas-powered machine that needs to be lugged from place to place; hands down my favorite task at the kennel, no joke) power washing outdoor kennels to keep everything clean and sanitary; plus hand washing dog dishes and keeping up with the laundry that usually needs to be done all day long; sweeping and mopping common areas, and the grooming room and office floors, plus taking out the trash, every single day; bringing dogs back into the kennel area, then bringing them out to their owners when it’s time for them to go home.
The kennel I work for is usually full of all different types of dog breeds, all with different types of personalities, with different needs and wants and instructions, owned by all different types of people across the board. A thriving, living, wonderful, active business.
And ALL of it requires one to move around — a lot. A lot-lot. In other words: A ton of physical work.
Editing: I work. And work. And sit a lot. But! . . . a TON of brain work goes into editing – reworking passages to make sure everything reads smoothly/ correctly/ grammatically; reading everything OUT LOUD to catch with the ear what the mind usually misses; maintaining an author’s voice while manipulating the prose (not as easy as it sounds); running a critical eye over a project for various things like: plot holes, faulty characterization and incorrect point of view, pacing that’s too fast or too slow, psychic distance, and wordiness; searching for missing or extra words, misspelled words, missing or extra punctuation, extra character spaces, etc.; not to mention ferreting out exposition, inconsistencies, better hooks and starting points; making sure a story maintains the suspension of disbelief, and that sensory descriptions are well rounded to give depth to the various scenes; strengthening overall storyline conflicts, and smoothing out stilted dialogue; switching passages around for better connection and flow . . . and really, don’t get me started on intrusive narrator and stories that unintentionally break the fourth wall (both are feasible, so long as it’s the author’s intent).
In my editing, I have anywhere from three to seven projects on my plate at any one time, all with different variables involved, all at different stages by all different types of authors who all write in different types of genres. A thriving, living, wonderful, active business.
And ALL of it requires one to think – a lot. A lot-lot. In other words: A ton of mental work.
One business involves physical labor, while the other involves mental labor, but both are equally – a lot of work.
And neither are nothing to sneeze at.
So, yeah. Editing’s not for the faint-hearted (or for the grammatically challenged), and even though we might sit for long periods of time, we aren’t just sitting and staring blankly at strings of words. And we’re not fooling around. No, we’re doing some tough mental gymnastics to rework a manuscript in order to help the author bring it to its fullest, shining potential so it can be successfully enjoyed by his or her (forthcoming) readership somewhere out there.
And dammit – it’s a lot of work.
Like being a full-time mom.
Which I also am.
And, yes – that’s a lot of work, too.