We’ve all read something where the text forgets to mention what two things even have to do with each other, or a set of instructions that forget to mention what, exactly, you’re supposed to have on hand before following the instructions. Or a sentence that really doesn’t say what it was supposed to.
You know, the kind of mistakes that even a grammar nerd’s brain tends to fix for them, while they read their own work.
That’s what editors are for.
Short stories differ from novels. Ideological science fiction differs from sociological science fiction. Fantasy differs from historical fiction.
Blog posts differ from articles. How-to manuals differ from opinion pieces. Books explaining theories differ from ones explaining how to accomplish something.
Different types of writing are all different. So they shouldn’t be edited the same way.
Any editor who tells you otherwise isn’t a good choice for your work…unless that editor happens to specialize in the specific type of editing you need.
As an editor, I’m not a specialist in the usual sense—but neither am I in the same boat as most generalists, who don’t realize that those different types of writing are—and should be—different and apply rules differently.
Who your audience is affects your writing more than what you’re writing.
That doesn’t mean you should turn a novel into a recipe. You can incorporate recipes into novels, like Harper Lin, but in that case you’re writing for people who like cozies and cooking. So each book in the series would need to have that—and if you’re the type who writes what comes to you and that you want to read, that would mean you like cozy mysteries and cooking. You also wouldn’t want to change writing style midseries, without some compelling reason.
But if you end up having such a reason, then that’s probably been affecting things and helping define your audience all along.
It’s all parts of patterns, see. Readers and customers have patterns in what they like. Writers have patterns in what they write. When those patterns are compatible, you get a reader-writer relationship that involves a fan.
Editing has patterns, too. That’s where and how writer-editor relationships develop.
If you’re wanting the usual one-stop-shop where you toss in your piece of writing and the editor tosses it back all fixed, I’m probably not the editor for you.
Why My Editing Is Different:
Writing can often be fixed in more than one way.
I embrace that fact. Depending on what the problem is and what type of edit you’ve purchased, I might flag something with a comment listing the options to fix it, or I might fix it and explain why I chose that method, or I might just fix it and leave a note referencing an explanation that I gave earlier.
Some errors are subjective.
This means some things could be wrong or right, depending on your source or even what you meant to do. I will readily tell you when a change is optional or a suggestion—even when it’s a pet peeve of mine. For instance, I hate the phrase “couple of”, but I’m well aware that’s a pet peeve, not a “hard” (objective) error.
Sometimes writing is unclear or missing information.
Everyone sometimes skips needed transitions or context. In these situations, readers and most editors make assumptions about what you meant. When there’s any reasonable doubt, I prefer asking, even though it means you’ll have to answer and return it to me. I also will sometimes show why something’s unclear, either by asking a question that points out what you’re actually saying or by adding a transition and flagging it as an example.
Even writers who know what they’re doing and have a ton of experience will sometimes type a word that’s similar to but not what they meant, and sometimes that similar word is even fine in the context. That’s why, when I catch situations that could be typos, I ask. I’ll point out the implications of your conflation of two idioms and double-check that you didn’t mean one or the other. My job as an editor is to verify that you wrote what you meant, not assume that you have impossibly accurate typing skills.
Authors have patterns.
I watch for those patterns and consider their implications. If you repeat one word a lot in a context, I’ll highlight it. If you display a tendency to miss a particular concept of writing, grammar, or spelling, I’ll let you know. If a particular writing technique could help prevent a type of error you’re prone to, I’ll give you a heads-up. Because patterns can be useful, but it’s best to use them on purpose.
My goal as an editor: to enhance the connection between your writing and its ideal readership.
That means I double-check stuff, verify that you said what you meant, and educate you about spelling and grammar items that can have more than one “right” resolution.
And sometimes that means I’ll flag something as officially wrong but informally or colloquially fine, such as the colloquial and historical precedent for using they as a gender-neutral singular pronoun.
What Working with Me Looks Like:
If I ever don’t respond within two (2) business days, something has gotten funky in digital land. Maybe the e-mail gremlins were hungry.
- You send me information about your manuscript: word count, target audience (genre, what it is, etc.), desired or needed turnaround time (such as if you need it in time for an anthology deadline), and if you want a sample edit (available to new clients or returning ones with new situations).
- I respond, and if your turnaround time can fit my schedule, I alert you when to watch for the quote (with the sample, if requested).
- You send me your manuscript, if you haven’t already.
- I evaluate the manuscript, perform the sample edit if applicable, and send you a quote and expected turnaround date.
- You accept the quote.
- I submit an invoice and letter of agreement.
- You accept the letter of agreement, paying the invoice. (Note that if you’re seeking to schedule me in advance of the project being ready, there is a fee for reserving the slot.)
- I perform and deliver the edit (or proofread), which will include comments with options and questions and notes of things you may want to address.
- You go over the edit and examine the comments, responding when appropriate via edit or new comment, and return the edit to me.
- I receive the file and give you a turnaround date.
- I look over the changes you’ve made, respond accordingly, and return the file.
- You look over it and, if you have further questions, can request a repeat of the previous two steps.
- We wrap everything up and move on to our respective next projects.
Note that if you make significant changes to your project while work is in progress, the added portions may warrant an additional fee, to account for the material that was not part of the original project scope.
My default grammar handbook is The Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition), and my default dictionary is the online unabridged Merriam-Webster for US English and the online Oxford Dictionary for non-US English—but I’m able to use a different grammar handbook and/or dictionary upon request.
Whether your work is nonfiction or fiction, a how-to manual or a story, I can edit or proofread it*.
*Unless it’s slasher horror or something beyond my ken—like calculus (which I understand but can only explain verbally, not in logarithms, thanks to a math disability that nobody noticed until I was in college). But if your work does just so happen to be something I can’t work on, I’ll tell you, and I might be able to refer you to someone else who’s a better fit.
But don’t just take my word for it!
I have hired Misti to edit four of my books, and she has done a wonderful job. She is thorough, professional, and returns my manuscripts in a timely manner. Apart from making necessary technical corrections, she has offered valuable creative suggestions on many occasions. She is a skilled editor, and I highly recommend her.Joshua Kinser
Misti Wolanski edited two books for me—one young adult and one “hen” lit. Both times she made brilliant recommendations that vastly improved the manuscripts. I love the way she packs in little “mini-lessons” along with her edits, so I’m not only getting great editing, but I’m also acquiring a higher skill level from working with her. With both books she was clear about the timeline and stuck to it. Moreover, she went above and beyond by reviewing my website and offering suggestions for improving it. Without reservation, I highly recommend Misti"s editing services! I look forward to working with her on my next project.Brenda Vicars, author of Polarity in Motion