Learn from other editors
Many of us work alone, and it can seem that we work in isolation. But just in the last week I have had two very positive experiences of learning from other editors in the course of my everyday work. One job involved a second proofread, and I was sent my first proofread to check against. The first proof set now also included marks made by the senior commissioning editor, who is obviously intimately acquainted with the series (this was my first book for the client, and it had quite a complicated set of features). I learned so much from being able to see which of my original corrections the editor had let stand, and which she had modified or stetted for the typesetter. Any subsequent books I proofread or edit for the client should be easier and more accurate as a result.
The other positive experience involved copy-editing in Word using a template made by a fellow SfEP member, supplied to me by the client (an educational publisher). The template was set up in such a way that using it enabled me to see at a glance exactly how long each of the lessons in the book was running – again, there were various features such as boxes which complicated matters – and cut accordingly. This saved me time, and led to a greater degree of accuracy – hopefully there will be no need to cut text at the proof stage as a result.
Read around the subject
One of the best things about our work can be the variety of materials and subjects we work on. Many a time I have found myself happily distracted by the subject matter of a book, and reading around it in my own time. Although this is essentially a pleasurable exercise, it can also be of direct benefit in terms of your work – next time you edit a book on the same subject, you will be much better informed.
Work in house
This kind of opportunity doesn’t come up every day, but it might – and if it does, be open to it. Working in a client’s office is a golden opportunity to pick up work tips. You’ll see directly how people tackle the kind of work you need to do, and you’ll be able to ask questions in real time. You’ll also make new contacts and cement existing ones. And as well as being a CPD injection, who knows where the experience could lead in terms of future projects?
Move outside your comfort zone
I’m not suggesting you take on work that you’re really not ready for or trained to do – that would be irresponsible. But if you are offered a job for which you tick most of the boxes, but that goes just beyond what you’ve done or experienced before, don’t instinctively turn it down – taking it on can be the best way of learning. If you will need to pick up a new skill to complete the job, there are plenty of people you can ask for advice along the way. Carry out your own research, ask editorial friends and colleagues, or try the SfEP forums or any other online group you are part of.
A job that requires a new way of working may take longer than you expect the first time you do it. Think of learning how to do something properly as an investment, though. Next time you’ll be much quicker.
Learn a skill not connected to editing
Not everything we do has to be about editing. Work can be all-consuming, especially for freelances and small-business owners, and it’s healthy to switch off from it for a while. You might take up a sport, or a musical instrument, or study another language. Getting away from the desk is a great way to relax, think about something else and develop a new area of expertise in the process. However, a positive side-effect may be that when you return to your desk, you are able to see the solution to a niggling problem more easily. And in the longer term, it’s sometimes possible to turn a seemingly non-editorial hobby – such as cooking or gardening – into an editorial specialism.
Harnessing everyday CPD
Ultimately, most of the things mentioned above will simply happen in the course of everyday life – editorial and otherwise. The trick is to recognise and acknowledge what is happening in order to make the most of it.
Posted by Liz Jones, SfEP marketing and PR director.
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.