I have been freelance writing since 1980. In the beginning of my career, when I was a college student in English, I had a professor who said, “Women make the best editors. They pay more attention to detail than the men do. So it’s best if they edit copy instead of writing it.” I found this to be amusingly sexist, and had a feeling I would end up doing ample writing and editing – I was right.
Over time, in fact, I have found that the two supposedly separate arts, editing and writing, intertwine freely and that you can’t get by without doing both of them in some form or another. Writing usually involves editing, and editing always involves writing or rewriting. I can’t let poorly written copy go, not without adding to it for color’s sake, or subtracting redundancies and clarifying matters.
When I go in to either write or edit, I try hard to maintain the original author’s voice, if it’s a ghost writing project where I’ve been hired to work on someone else’s project – but I throw in a lot of my own savvy when it comes to making things Show not Tell, and making the copy read smoothly and professionally. I can’t stand poorly edited copy, although some of the writers I work with send me exactly that, after they have done the initial ghost writing.
There’s nothing wrong with sending that to me, as I assist with straightening out the copy. I make a great team with one particular ghost writer, being one of her regular editors, and have another one coming on board with me soon in the same capacity. They churn out the rough, ghost written copy, and then I whip it into shape with my editor’s acumen. It’s easy for me and feels good to me, after all these years, to prepare other people’s copy.
I add color, emphasis, tone and flair when appropriate, and rewrite as needed. Sometimes I even content or developmentally edit a piece; but most of what I do tends to be line, grammar and color editing. I like to leave developmental editing to the specialists in that field, who do only content or developmental editing for their livings. But I do enjoy a good, thorough color edit!
That said, as I said, whenever I edit I am also writing for a living. Editing exists to enhance productive writing, and it always requires that I write as I go, adding to and subtracting from someone else’s purple prose, but always enhancing it in order to better serve the purposes of the readers. They are the most important group of people to keep in mind, even when you are ghost writing for someone else; nothing works without an enjoyable reading experience.