We’d like to welcome Editor Dawn Lamprect to indieBRAG today to talk with us about her editing service. Dawn is owner and Editor of WordTherapy Editorial Services. While educated in writing and editing, she also spent many years as a Mental Health Therapist and Licensed Social Worker. Dawn enjoys using her analyzing skills while editing (analyzing the writing, not the writer!). Dawn makes it a priority to keep the writer’s voice, and her background has given her a knack for doing so.
Dawn started writing and studying writing as a young child. Dawn went on to get a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (as Dawn DeLay). She had a major in English, a minor in Psychology, and also took several classes in Creative Writing and News Editorial Journalism (including editing). Dawn then went on to get a Master of Social Work Degree. After working in that field for a number of years, including writing in that field and helping others write reports, she is now back to her first loves of editing and writing. Dawn is a member of the Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network. In addition to editing, Dawn also: teaches writing and literature, tutors students in English and writing, and she loves photography, traveling, cooking, and rescuing and fostering dogs and other animals. Dawn lives in the Atlanta area of Georgia with her husband and daughter.
Dawn, tell us more about how you got into editing?
It was an accident—literally! I started writing at a young age, mostly poetry and short stories. In high school I took Creative Writing for two years. I took first place in a large poetry contest, and even published some poems along the way. In college I was an English and Journalism major for a time, but changed course and decided to go into the social work and mental health field. I got my undergraduate degree in English, and my master’s in Social Work. There was a surprising amount of writing and report writing involved in those fields, and I started helping others with their note taking and report writing. Then in 2008 I was injured in a car accident and got to where I needed to stop working for a while. While healing, to help people out and keep myself busy, I began editing articles and essays as a favor. I had already been editing school papers for my daughter and husband, and I kept getting more and more requests. I began really studying editing so I’d do the best job, and I began taking editing classes as well. And now here I am. In the meantime, I taught high school English part time for three years. I also developed and taught a high school Creative Writing class for two years. The students and parents really seemed to appreciate the amount of feedback I gave on their writing. Ok, well, the parents appreciated it, anyway. I love getting to see the improvements students and other writers make in their writing as they grow and blossom. Maybe one day I’ll publish my own book, people do encourage me to, but for now I’m enjoying helping other writers put out their best work and improve their writing based on my feedback. I love pushing people up to the next level in their writing and helping them shine.
What is the importance of writers having their work edited?
All works need edited; even editors themselves need to have their own work edited. When I do copywriting work I have it edited by someone else. When you look over your own work, your brain tends to see what you meant to put there, rather than what you actually wrote. That’s why it is difficult to catch all of your own errors. You know what you meant when you wrote that section or chapter, but is it clear to the reader? It takes an outside reader with training to catch not only grammatical errors, but structural and genre issues as well.
While it can be helpful to have a friend edit your work for you, if they have not studied editing (not just grammar) they will miss things, or even insert errors into your work. They might also be tempted to reword things in a way they themselves would have put them, rather than staying with the writers style and voice. There IS such a thing as too much editing! Feedback from friends and beta readers is great along the way. But when you are close to publishing, it is time to hire a professional who can give you in-field advice.
In fact, I advise hiring TWO editors if you can afford it, especially for books. First get a copyedit or a substantive level edit. When the work is returned to you, go through it and make the recommended changes. Then send it to a different editor to make the final proofread. Then don’t touch it—it’s ready to publish. There are a couple of reasons to hire two editors. One is that even the best editors will miss things. (I’m sure you’ve seen major works with errors in them, and some of those have had multiple editors!) The other reason to hire a second editor is that once an editor has been through a work a few times, such as in a copyedit, their ability to pick up on errors has decreased. Just like the writer, they start to see what they think should be there instead of what is actually there. I will not personally do a proofread of a work I’ve already done a copyedit on, and for that same reason. I know the work too well so I could miss things. If you cannot afford to have your work edited twice, I recommend getting a good copyedit or substantive edit. This way you are getting general and structural advice as well as line editing.
If you are a new writer, or this is your fist book or novel, you do have other options. You can get some developmental editing done in part. For example, ask an editor if instead of giving you a line-by-line edit, if they would give you overall advice instead. Some editors call this a consultation or written coaching. You would get a written document with feedback on such things as grammar, story structure, character development, conflict, and the like. This costs much less than a full edit and can be a lifesaver for your work. Also, if your work wasn’t ready for a full edit yet then this feedback would show you this. (In fact, if your work isn’t ready for a copyedit, because it needs further development, then a good editor will tell you this. Then it is in your court to either get the edit anyway and publish, or rework what needs further development.) Another option is to have a chapter or two of your book edited before it is finished. Work through the recommended edits and changes before continuing on to the next chapters. This will show you what your common errors are, improving your writing overall, and will also get you feedback in other areas and the about work in general. Don’t be afraid to ask editors if they will do these things for you, even if these services aren’t listed on their websites. Editors want your writing to be its best, and your work to succeed!
What are your goals as an editor?
I want to give writers quality editing, of course. But I also really want to really capture the voice of the writer, so that my edits are undetectable in their work. If I re-work a sentence or more, I want the writer to think “yes, that’s exactly what I meant and it sounds just like me!” I also always want to communicate my thoughts and ideas clearly to writers so there are no misunderstandings about why I made certain edits (especially edits beyond grammar).
Another goal of mine is to remain strength-based in my approach toward writers. Editors should tell writers what is going well, not just what isn’t going well. It’s hard enough to have your work torn apart by someone. Writers need to hear along the way things like: “I love this sentence!” or “Great idea to have your character do that! It really fits!” Don’t just tell writers to fix this and that; tell them what is working so they can learn what their strengths are and keep using them. It also keeps them from getting discouraged after working so hard on their writing and then getting negative feedback. All writers have strengths and courage, and individual strengths should be pointed out to them. ` `
What are the different types of editing you do?
The levels of editing I offer are: proofreading, copyediting, substantive, and rewriting. The most common services are copyediting and substantive editing. My descriptions of those are on my website; different editors can have different service descriptions for each level. I make a recommendation for the level of editing based on each work, but the author is free to choose a different level. I do offer a sample edit of a randomly-chosen part of their work. I will also do a written consultation, offering developmental feedback on their work.
The types of work I generally edit are: nonfiction, fiction, books, essays, and articles. I edit a lot of Christian works, but not exclusively.
I also do copy-writing for a marketing company and for websites.
What can make it difficult to work with an author?
Writers aren’t difficult to work with at all, but there are mixed things about doing freelance work. The good thing about it is that writers do not have to use your edits. The bad thing about it is that writers do not have to use your edits! The editing advice I’ve given yet seen ignored is when I suggest a writer change a section or even a whole chapter. Yes, that can be a lot of work, but following that advice and doing the rework will greatly enhance their book. The times I’ve had that advice ignored it was always because writers wanted to quickly get the book published by a certain quickly-approaching deadline and they couldn’t both meet that deadline and make the changes. I get that. But—it shows up in the reviews. The very things I’ve suggested they change have been mentioned negatively in reviews. I don’t take it personally when writers don’t use all of my edits or suggestions, not at all. That’s just part of freelance work. I want writers to put out the best work, though, and I hate seeing them get negative reviews in areas where I had already made suggestions for change.
What are the biggest mistakes you see writers make?
Other than not hiring an editor, or not listening to the editor–rushing. I can usually tell when a work has been rushed. I know people need to make deadlines, but rushing negatively effects the quality of your work (although some people do work better under pressure). When a work has been rushed it often also hasn’t had a final self-edit. Unless I’m doing a re-write, there’s only so much I can do to make a rushed section or chapter fit with the rest of the work.
Another thing, which is related to rushing, is not leaving time for editing. When you get your work back from your editor there are things you will still need to do. There may be things that need changed and questions that need answered. Like I mentioned earlier, if you don’t leave time for this it will show in the final work, and also in your reviews.
Another big mistake writers make is not studying writing and the genre they are writing in.
What are the lessons you have learned honing in your editing skills?
Something very important to me is treating writers with respect. It can be so difficult to have someone criticize your work. This needs to be done with the utmost of care. Writers have a fantasy of getting back their work with a note from their editor that says, “This is fantastic! I hardly changed a thing! This is going to be the new American novel, taught in classrooms across the country!” The reality of editing is nothing like that, even for top-selling authors. I continue to work to be very respectful and gentle with writers in every single comment I make to them. I thoroughly explain suggested edits (I call them suggestions since it is freelance editing and they are free not to use the suggestions). I never want to talk down to a writer. I may mention what I’m thinking or where there work is taking me in that section so they can best understand why the edit works better than what they had. By doing this they are able to see just why it’s better now, and not think that I just want to do it my way because I like it my way better. I am always honing how I approach my comments to writers, aiming for the most respectful and understandable approach.
It’s also important to keep up on new editing and writing books, and new approaches to writing and editing. I continue to buy writing books as well as editing books so I can keep learning and convey that information to my clients. I need to stay on top of the latest material in order to help make their work the best it can be.
What are some of the corrections writers can make before sending you their manuscript to cut cost and editing time?
First, the most important thing writers can do is to study writing. That may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don’t do this before writing a book! It’s great that you have a story in you, or information you need to share, and the best way you can communicate that is to study both aspects of writing and structure, and to brush up on grammar. The more you know about the basic concepts of writing in your genre, the better you’re able to communicate what’s inside you.
Another thing that helps with self-editing is to set aside the work for a time before doing a final edit. I can often tell when this wasn’t done. You can pick up on a lot of simple errors this way, as well as any major things you need to rework before sending your work to an editor.
One more thing that people often don’t think of is to read the work out loud. This is a great tool I’ve always told writers about, and they are surprised at how well it works. When you are reading your own work your brain can trick you into seeing what you meant to write rather than what’s really there. By reading the work out loud, sections at a time, you get to hear what is there as you must read it word-for-word without skimming. It’s amazing what the ear picks up that the eyes don’t see. Yes, people feel silly when they first try it, but it works!
What is your criteria for taking an editing job?
Aside from the before-mentioned list of things I generally edit, I also check to see that I can finish the job by any deadline they might have in mind. And I don’t take sexually explicit material, so I exclude those jobs. If for whatever reason I don’t think I would be a good fit for a job, I let the writer know immediately. I want to give quality work that’s a good fit for the writer, and I won’t take a job that I’m not a good fit for just to get the job.
I’ve also had people ask me if I would lower my quality of work so I would lower my charges on their book. I decline to do that as well. My charges are below industry standards as it is, yet I give thorough, quality editing. I know that editing can get expensive, and that people do not realize how much time it takes and how much study, training, and work are required. I also know that people can easily find editors that are willing to work for what amounts to a dollar or two an hour, if not less. But you usually get what you pay for in those situations, and new writers often don’t realize this even when they get their edited work back. I decided that I am not willing to put out lower quality work in order to lower my rates even further. I keep my slots open for those able to pay my already-low rates. In return, writers get quality editing with a lot of relevant feedback.
What I can do for those writers, though, is to offer a written consultation on their work. I can also edit just a few chapters. They will still benefit from my advice, and they can take it from there.
Do you read over the work first before starting to edit?
Yes, I always do. Not every editor does this. I do it for a few reasons. One reason is to get a great sense of the writer’s voice. This is important so that my editing is invisible in their work. I also do this so I know where the work is going. Knowing where the work is going helps me better catch any inconsistencies or structural problems along the way. It also helps me to see each writers’ common errors. We all have them. When I know what they are before I technically start, I remember to look for them, and I can address them in my side letter before I begin.
How can writers get in touch with you?
There’s a contact page on my website
They can also email me at Word Therapy gmail –email@example.com