Monday, February 2, 2009

Unleashing the inner editor

Over the past year or so I have undertaken a number of writing courses in what I thought was an attempt to fulfil a life-long dream to write … well, something (I hadn't quite worked out what my genre / product would be!). However it is becoming increasing clear, as I procrastinate over writing, that my love of writing is more about my love of reading (and words, I guess). I simply 'inhale' books, reading between 5 - 7 each week, depending what I can get my hands on.

I currently work in government and spend my days editing bureaucratic correspondence, briefing materials etc. I have no formal qualifications in this area (I have a BA (Psychology) and a MBA, hard-earned but completely useless in my current areas of interest!). I would appreciate any advice you may have about careers in editing /publishing, in the event I am able to garner some guts (!!) to pursue this.

I belong to the Writers’ Centre in my state but it doesn’t seem to have any relevant courses and I am loath to undertake formal study in this area. Are formal qualifications necessary? Is it about being /getting known or networking?

Well, this is a bit of a fix: you would like to change careers but don't want to undertake any kind of training ... Which is understandable, considering you have already been to university quite a bit. I spent a few years there myself and wouldn't hurry back to tertiary education.

Not all editors have formal training, but most of those sorts of editors were trained in-house and they started at the very bottom rung in order to get that training - that is, they were editorial assistants. Editorial assistants are on below-poverty salaries so I wouldn't recommend you do that. However, if you're not going to travel that road, you do need to make your contacts in the industry. It wouldn't be enough just to send a CV to a publisher and hope to make it onto their freelance roster - they don't know you and they don't know your work, so they're not going to rush to pay you money to edit something for them. Of course, the question then is how you make the right contacts.

It's no surprise that your local writers' centre doesn't offer courses on editing, as that's not their focus - they're probably flat out trying to accommodate the requests for writing courses and workshops. But they may be able to point you in the right direction - have you made an enquiry? You should also contact the Society of Editors in your state and ask them for help. As a rule editors are shy, retiring types - my own pet collective noun for them is an 'introvert' of editors. So they may not effusively welcome your enquiry, but I'm sure they'll be helpful. That tends to come with the shy retiringness.


Cab Sav said...

Re editing courses. If you're in Melbourne a friend of mine did Editing 1 (with Margaret McKenzie) and Editing 2 (with Melanie and Geoff from Lonely Planet) at Holmesglen TAFE and couldn't speak highly enough about them.

Editing 1 was all about grammar--she knows more about grammar than I do now--and editing 2 was about editing manuscripts, style sheets, copy edits, structural edits and so on.

My friend did these subjects as part of a certificate in Professional Writing, but you may be able to do them as single subjects. Obviously, the teachers make a difference and you need to pick someone who suits you but everything I heard about these three impressed me, just from what I my friend told me.

Rockafella Skank said...

Thanks for the advice Sydney and Cab Sav (a boy/girl after my own heart!!). Am a Brissy chick, so the Melbourne courses are out, but I will check out the Society of Editors.