Q&A

How do I know you’re any good?

I’ll be happy to do a sample edit – generally a few pages – absolutely free. I think you’ll be pleased with what you get. If not, there’s no obligation, and I won’t hassle you about it.

Also…

Author Ben Trube, whose work I have edited extensively, had this to say:

Brian is detailed, logical and passionate about making the work the best it can be. He’s professional and will always take the time to explain why he has made a change, or to suggest ways to make your writing even better. He’s really great at spotting those bad habits that are in a writer’s blind spot.

Copyediting sounds like it only fixes trivial problems. Why should I care?

Copyediting is a crucial layer of polish that separates the professionals from the rest of the crowd. Virtually every major published work gets copyedited, and – fairly or unfairly – if yours doesn’t get the same treatment, it can make you look like an amateur.

Copyediting is one of those things that’s invisible if done right, but very noticeable if done wrong (or not at all). It doesn’t take too many small errors to alienate a reader, especially a smart reader; and aren’t those the ones you want?

And besides, minor problems aren’t always so minor. Compare:

  • “He’s taking his son in to get a shot tomorrow.”
  • “He’s taking his son in to get shot tomorrow.”

I’m pretty good at English. Do I really need a copyeditor?

Yes.

First of all, copyediting is a highly specialized skill. There’s “good at English,” there’s obsessive, and then there’s copyediting. It’s not about whether you’re a good writer: copyediting is simply a distinct, precise ability that can only be learned through training.

Second, no matter how good you are, you can never do as good a job on your own manuscript as an outsider can. Everyone has their blind spots. Even professional copyeditors, when they write books, hire another copyeditor to look them over.

What if you make a bunch of changes I don’t want? What if I meant to spell that word in an unusual way? Are you going to make my writing sound all stilted and formal and “correct”?

I’m adamant about not changing your voice or tone. If you’re deliberately using slang, informal language, or nonstandard spellings, I will not try to “fix” what isn’t broken. I will never turn your writing into something it isn’t. I will only make it the best possible version of what it is.

If I’m not sure about something, I’ll ask. If you want your work handled in a special way, just let me know.

And by the way, all my edits are done with Track Changes in MS Word, which means you can easily see everything I’ve done, and restore anything you don’t like to its original version.

What kind of writing do you edit?

Yours, probably.

I handle:

  • Book-length manuscripts, fiction and nonfiction.
  • Short stories and essays.
  • Articles for the Web.
  • Business writing.
  • Drama and poetry.
  • Any length, from a few pages all the way up to a multi-book series.
  • Practically any genre: sci fi, Western, romance, fantasy, mainstream, you name it.
  • Technical computer-y stuff: books about software development, database design, etc. I have a degree in computer science, so I know what’s up.

I’m nervous about having my work edited. What if I have a lot of mistakes? Are you going to be harsh about it?

Absolutely not.

Besides working as an editor, I’m an author myself, and I know firsthand that getting edited can be painful. I will do my very best to minimize that pain. Yes, I’ll be thorough, and point out all mistakes and concerns I find – that’s what you’re paying me for, after all – but I promise I will always be respectful and considerate.

No writer in the world is perfect, so don’t be shy. There are even rumors floating around that I’m not perfect, either.

English is not my first language. Will you edit my work?

Of course. As long as it’s in English, we’ll make it the best English it can be.

My writing is quirky, unusual, potentially offensive, explicitly sexual, or otherwise out of the mainstream. Will you consider it?

Yes. I’m an open-minded guy and not easily offended. Pretty much the only content I’d reject would be something blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise hurtful – or something that promotes false and harmful ideas, like “vaccines cause autism.” But even then, the worst I’ll do is give a polite no. I don’t bite.

By the way, a prejudiced work is very different from a work containing a prejudiced character. The latter is not necessarily a problem, and is often a good thing.

Will you look for gender bias, racial bias, etc., as part of your editing?

My job is to polish any rough edges that might needlessly alienate your readers, so yes, I will point out bias if I notice it. However, I will not try to make your writing “politically correct”; and of course, as with all my suggestions, you can take them or leave them.

Do you do other kinds of editing besides copyediting? Do you do heavier (“substantive” or “developmental”) editing?

Yes, I have experience and training in developmental editing, and I’m happy to offer that service as well.

What style guide do you use when copyediting?

My go-to style guide is the Chicago Manual of Style, which is commonly used for novels as well as nonfiction books. I also have a subscription to the AP Stylebook (used for news stories), if you prefer. And of course, if you have a personal or in-house style guide, I’ll be happy to follow that.

I don’t have a lot of experience with APA or MLA, so if that’s what you need, I may not be your best bet.

If you don’t know what a style guide is, that’s fine. It’s my responsibility, not yours, to handle those details.

I still have more questions!

No worries. Send me an email: buckley.d.brian@gmail.com.

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