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Editing 101: If the Shoe *Doesn't* Fit

I saw something posted on social media, recently, that asked "If Cinderella's shoe was a perfect fit, why did it fall off?"

It's an interesting question in and of itself, but it also got me thinking, once again, about choosing a "perfect" editor (or proofreader, or ghostwriter, or general contractor, or spouse...). What do you do if the one in front of you isn't the one?

It's been a while since we talked about choosing to work with someone on your manuscript. In a lot of cases, it's hard to really tell what the person will be like to work with until you're in the middle of the work.

This is why working together on a sample chapter or something of that type can be a good place to start. It's a little like on-line dating: you start out knowing nothing about each other, you correspond for a while, then - if everything goes well - you have a first date, and if that goes well then you consider another date (and so on). And you can edit happily ever after.

On the other hand, there are a lot of people who "date" on apps that are pretty much one-and-done, and there are a lot of people who hire freelancers that way, too. A number of websites match up freelancers and authors with little more than "Can we get it done in the time we have?" and "How do I pay you?" - not exactly phrases that bring to mind a great relationship. Though, we've probably all used those sites at one time or another, and they're good for what they are.

When you decide to create a working relationship to move your manuscript forward, however, you need to be sure you're both compatible. This could be as simple as verifying you both use the same style guide, that you both feel the same way about the Oxford comma, or that you both use the same version of the English language (American versus British versus Canadian versus...).

There can be other issues, though. While you're building your working relationship, many of these topics should be discussed in advance, and some might be deal breakers, depending on how you both feel:

  • Do you both understand the market being written for? (Will your editor know the youth market as well as you do? Will your editor understand the jargon of the business you're writing about?)

  • Do you both hold the same political/social/etc. views? (An editor with a contrary view might yield a rocky relationship, but might also be very helpful in giving counter-arguments and adding depth to your discussions.)

  • What are the timelines you're working under - and can your freelancer meet them? (If an experienced freelancer tells you that you're expecting too much work in too little time, he or she probably has a reason for saying so. But, at the same time, if he or she says "no problem" then you need to both be on the same page.)

And, of course:

  • What are you willing and able to pay - and can the freelancer work within that framework? (Relationships and money... now that's a tale as old as time.)

If you do your due diligence, and if you and your prospective partner give honest answers to the questions that are raised, you should both know where you stand when you start on your project - or when you decide to say "No, thank you" and move on.

And if you find out that you aren't a match? Remember to keep this polite. Although it's a much more personal process than, say, an oil change, it is still a business transaction - and should be treated as such.

Consider finding a freelancer to work with to be more like a trip to a shoe store, and less like a trip to the ball. And remember: even the shoe that looks perfect might not fit once you try it on, but don't worry - there are a lot of other shoes in the store.


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