Introducing Chicago 17!

Hello everyone!

It’s no surprise that with our rapidly changing world, the rules of grammar must shift just as rapidly to keep up. And so it is that the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition, has arrived early! It replaces the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, which has been the style authority since its release in 2010.

If you’d like to know more about what’s different between the 16th and 17th editions, check out the following links–and have fun styling away with the new Chicago:

Until next time!


Finding Your Workspace

Hello all!

Today I want to address one of the more difficult aspects of writing and other such creative endeavors (well, really, this could apply to any endeavor): getting in “the zone.” Have you ever had that experience, where all the stars seem to align, and the hours fly past, and you crank out more exceptional creative output than you would have believed possible? That’s when you’re in “the zone.” But by contrast, have you ever had the opposite experience, where you just can’t get comfortable in your chair, and time drags, and you can’t seem to get anything done…or even really feel motivated to? Those days can be so frustrating.

So how can you help yourself be in the zone more of the time? Well, there are many factors at play when it comes to getting in the zone, but one I’ve discovered has a huge impact almost all of the time is being in the right workspace. For example, I’m most productive and focused when I’m in my home office with the windows open and the quiet sounds of the neighborhood providing the faintest of white noise. My husband, on the other hand, cannot focus nearly as well or accomplish nearly as much when he’s at home; he gets most in the zone when he’s at Starbucks, with a cacophony of activity around him. My college roommate’s workspace was in our dorm room, in the middle of the night, with only hours until the project was due. One of my former bosses couldn’t get anything done unless she had an object in her hands to manipulate.

What’s my point here? My point is that your best workspace might be vastly different than that of anybody else. My point is also that your workspace is about more than physical location. It’s about what you can touch, hear, feel, taste, and smell. It’s about the time of day. It’s about how close or far you are from a deadline. It’s about any detail of your situation that will help you get in the zone.

If you haven’t found your perfect workspace yet, I encourage you to take some time to experiment. Try out different locations, at different times, with different stimuli. Be open to new and unexpected discoveries about yourself and what helps you be productive. Because once you’ve found your workspace, you’ve got the key to your zone…and a whole new world of creative possibilities.

Have fun exploring, and I’ll see you next time!

The Value of Professional Organizations

Hello everyone!

I’ve alluded to it before, but I want to take a moment today to really emphasize the value of professional organizations for writers. Writing–particularly for self-publishing authors–can be a highly independent, and even isolating, field. Professional organizations offer a way for writers to do two things that can be difficult in their particular type of private profession: (1) network with other people in the same field and (2) access relevant and beneficial resources. Let me explain a bit further.

First, professional organizations for writers give you a way to network with other people in your same field and with your same goals and interests. So often, writing (like editing) involves spending a lot of time alone, with no company other than your computer and the words on the screen. There aren’t a lot of opportunities to interact with other people, which means there aren’t a lot of opportunities to develop relationships with other like-minded professionals. Those like-minded professionals are a great resource when you’re looking for critiques of your writing, somebody to bounce ideas around with, or even just a sympathetic ear when you hit those inevitable moments of writer’s block. The Romance Writers of America ( is a great example of a professional organization that offers many networking opportunities for its members, such as regional meetings, an annual national conference, and even online forums to engage in ongoing, topical conversation with others.

Second, professional organizations give you resources you wouldn’t have as a completely independent author. Organizations help keep you abreast of the latest industry trends and standards. Many of them include in the membership fee a subscription to serial publications with informative articles and advertisements for other professionals (like editors, publishers, and cover design artists) who can help you publish your work. The Independent Book Publishers Association (, for example, provides many tools to help you be successful as a writer, including advertising and marketing assistance, online seminars and classes to improve your writing and your self-publication skills, and a monthly newsletter in both print and digital forms.

In short, professional organizations offer you as an author–and potentially an isolated one at that–a world of resources and connectedness that can make all the difference in your success. I hope you will take a few minutes to do a quick online search to see what professional organizations are out there to meet your specific interests and needs. I’ll be happy to hear about what you find!

Until next time!

FAQ 6: Why Do I Need an Editor?

Hello everybody!

Today I’m answering the last question in my FAQs series: Why do I need an editor? It’s rare that I actually get this question phrased this way, but the underlying inquiry remains. I’ve found that there are really two levels to this question. The first level is something along the lines of, “Why does anybody other than me need to read my manuscript before I publish it?” The second level is something to the effect of, “Why do I need to hire a professional editor? My friends have read my manuscript and think it’s fine; isn’t that enough?”

So, for the first level… The short answer is that it is always a good idea to have somebody else read your work–and this is as true for me and other editors as it is for authors. (As an example, I have my darling husband read all of my blogs to make sure I didn’t miss anything.) It’s very challenging for anybody to make an unbiased evaluation of their own writing. As writers, we know what we’re trying to say and what words we intended to use. We might be able to catch some misspellings and incorrect commas–though it’s very challenging for a single person to catch all errors in a manuscript; it’s definitely a case of the more eyes and the more reviews, the better–but it’s highly unlikely that we’ll realize it if our meaning doesn’t come across clearly or if what we’ve written could be interpreted another way. Maybe we’ve alluded to something that isn’t actually common knowledge, but we think it is. Maybe we’ve skipped a step in our logic or in the plot, forgetting that our readers aren’t inside our head and might not be able to fill in that missing piece. Or maybe we’ve said something in a way that could come across as offensive, but we have no idea because we did not mean it that way when we wrote it. These are all distinct possibilities we face as writers that make it vital for us to have somebody else read our work before we publish it for the world.

The question then becomes why anybody needs to hire a professional editor as opposed to just giving a manuscript to friends or family to review. The most honest answer I can give is that any eyes are better than none. If it’s a case where it’s got to be an author’s friend or family member reading a manuscript or nobody at all, it is the vastly better option to have that friend or family member read the manuscript. There are distinct advantages to hiring a professional, however, the first being that–as with most things in life–it’s just a better idea to have somebody trained in a specific job or skill performing that function than somebody who is not trained. For example, I think we’d all prefer to have a trained stylist or barber cut our hair rather than somebody who has never given anybody a haircut. We don’t particularly want to take our clothes to a tailor who’s never threaded a needle. And we probably wouldn’t have somebody clean our homes who had never touched a sponge. In the same way, it’s preferable to have your manuscript cut, tailored, and cleaned up by somebody who knows even the most minute rules of language (or knows when to look them up), who has worked with many manuscripts in the same genre before and thus knows what distinguishes a good story from a great one, and who has specifically committed him- or herself to taking the time and putting in the effort to make your manuscript exceptional. Professional editors take great pride in their work; editing is not a field that people enter for the money, but rather one that people enter because they have a passion for and extensive knowledge of language. When you hire a professional editor, both you and your manuscript benefit from that passion, that knowledge, and that commitment to excellence. And that is why all authors need an editor.

And that also concludes the FAQ blog series! Please let me know if you’ve got any other questions you’d like to see me answer by posting in the comments or sending me a message. Otherwise, enjoy the rest of July, and I’ll see you next time!

FAQ 5: What Types of Materials Do You Edit?

Hello everyone!

Today I’m answering another question I’m often asked: What types of materials do I edit? The short answer for this one is that I edit any type of material a client would like me to edit. I have been fortunate to encounter a wide range of materials in my editing work, which means that in addition to having experience with editing all those material types, I’m also excited about and fairly adept at tackling new-to-me material types as well.

I find that most of my projects end up being either academic writing (dissertations, theses, and the like) or self-published memoirs, but I’ve also worked on everything from marketing and HR materials for companies, to law textbooks, to fictional manuscripts of various lengths, to online course material. You might now be wondering which of those things is my favorite to edit, but in all honesty, I don’t have a favorite. I enjoy the challenge that comes with variety and the need to swiftly switch gears from nonfiction to fiction and back again. As a former teacher and teacher librarian, I have a great love of learning, and there’s no better way to remain a lifelong learner than to constantly teach myself new things…and editing a new material type definitely falls into that category!

Next time, I’ll be answering the last question in this FAQ series: Why do I need an editor? I hope you’re looking forward to reading the answer as much as I am to writing it! Until then!

FAQ 4: Where Do Your Rates Come From?

Hello all!

It’s time for another in my frequently asked questions series. Since it deals with money, today’s topic tends to get people particularly curious: How do I determine my rates? Well, the short answer is that I multiply my hourly rate for the desired service by the number of work hours required to complete the project. But where do I get that hourly rate and that number of hours?

When I was describing the editing process last week, I mentioned that I do a sample edit to help me develop an estimate for any project. That is the origin of the number of hours. I take the total number of words in the project and divide that by the number of words in the sample edit, then multiply that result by the amount of time it took me to do the sample. That gives me a fairly accurate estimate of the number of hours a project will take me. For those of you who (like me!) aren’t exactly math-brained people, here’s an example to help illustrate the point:

  • Say I receive a sample edit of 500 words. The total number of words in the project is 25,000. It takes me 30 minutes to complete the sample edit.
  • First, I divide 25,000 words by 500 words, which gives me 50 (25000 / 500 = 50).
  • Then, I multiply 50 by 30 minutes (0.5 hours), which gives me 25 hours (50 x 0.5 = 25). It will take me about 25 hours to complete the project.

That process gets me the number of hours. But then, of course, I need an hourly rate to charge for my work. For that, I simply use the industry standard as indicated in the Editorial Freelance Association’s list of editorial rates (found at The EFA is a national organization for editors, and they offer many marvelous resources for editors and authors alike. Their rate chart helps keep a level playing field when it comes to charging for editing in the United States. So, to continue with the example:

  • The author for the project wants a medium copyedit, for which the EFA suggests charging $40 per hour.
  • I multiply 25 hours by a $40 hourly rate, which gives me $1,000 (25 x 40 = 1000). My estimate for this project is $1,000.

And that is where my rates come from! Next time, I’ll be talking about the different types of materials I edit. I hope to see you then!

FAQ 3: How Does the Editing Process Work?

Hello everyone!

I’m back with another frequently asked question and its answer. Today’s topic is how the editing process works; that is, how is it that things move from an author’s inquiry to a completed editing project? While I can’t claim to be speaking for all editors when I answer this one–since every editor has his or her own process and techniques–I do believe that a description of my editing process will at least give a general idea for how it works for most editors out there. So, off we go!

The process begins when I receive an inquiry from an author interested in hiring me. Generally, my first step is to obtain information about the work to be edited (its genre, length, etc.), the due date for the project, the type of editing sought, and (if applicable) whether it will be self-published or marketed to publishing companies. Finally, I request a two- or three-page sample of the work.

My next step is to use that sample to both get a feel for the author’s writing and complete a sample edit for the author. Completing the sample edit assists me in determining the estimated price of the editing project, and I am then able to send both the sample edit and the estimate back to the author for review. Once the author has reviewed everything and asked any questions he or she might have, I draw up a contract for the project for the author and I to sign. In addition to stating the cost of the project, the contract’s primary purpose is to protect the author’s rights to his or her work, explicitly stating that the author retains sole copyright to the work being edited and that any changes I make or language I write falls under that author’s copyright.

Once all those preliminary steps are complete, the author sends me the manuscript and the actual editing work begins. My process might vary slightly depending on the genre of the work or the timeline for the project, but generally, I do two or three runs through anything I edit. The first run tends to be where I catch most of the things I correct, with the second and third runs in place for me to correct anything I missed in the first run. I also read the work aloud on the second and third runs; reading aloud allows me to catch things that my eye alone would miss. I primarily use Microsoft Word for my editing because its Track Changes feature is hard to beat in terms of allowing the author to see and accept or reject each and every change I make to a document, but sometimes I also work in Adobe Acrobat or InDesign. I also frequently refer to the style guide and dictionary being followed for the work to check myself on anything from spellings to citations.

Once I’ve completed the editing, I send the work (with all my changes tracked) back to the author for his or her review. Usually, the author will then make further changes based on my suggestions and will send the work back to me again for another quick edit. That is also when I answer any questions the author might have about my changes, and we might discuss how best to handle any particularly tricky or sensitive sections of text. Finally, when the author is completely happy with my editing and the shape the work is in, we call the project complete.

And that is how the editing process works! I hope my description helps shed some light on how editors do their work. Next time, I’ll be discussing that most controversial topic: rates. See you then!

FAQ 2: What Exactly Does an Editor Do, Anyway?

Hello everyone!

Today, I’m answering another one of those questions I’m asked most often: “What exactly does an editor do, anyway?” The short answer (borrowed from one of my wonderful copyediting certificate program professors) is that it is the job of editors to infuse any written work with consistency, clarity, and elegance. We make sure that everything within a manuscript is consistent, from usage of commas, to spellings, to characters’ descriptions, to major themes. We make sure that the content is clear for readers, smoothing out any sections where the wording has the potential to lead to misunderstandings. And finally, we make sure that the language is elegant, that it both looks and sounds as pleasing as possible without altering the author’s voice or purpose in the writing.

That’s the answer in a nutshell, but the actual process of bringing those three elements to a manuscript is a bit more complicated and varies depending on the type of work an editor is hired to do. Every type of editing, however, involves at least two (and often more) very careful and detailed readings of a written work. It’s not like reading a book for pleasure, though it can indeed be quite an enjoyable process; it’s not even just checking to make sure things are spelled or punctuated according to the “rules,” though that is part of it. It is a meticulous consideration of every word and every punctuation mark to ensure that they are the words and marks best suited to convey the author’s meaning consistently, clearly, and elegantly. When the task is done right, an editor will be able to justify each and every element of the text, whether a suggested alteration or the author’s original work left as is.

And that is what an editor does! Hopefully that helps solve some of the mystery in an admittedly nebulous profession. Up next time, I’ll discuss what the editing process involves. Until then!

FAQ 1: How Did You Become an Editor?

Hello all my fellow literary lovers!

This is the first in a series of blogs that answers the questions I’m asked most often, and the first question I’ll address is “How did you become an editor?” I get this question a lot because, I’m guessing, editor is something of an unusual career. It’s not something that most kids grow up wanting to be someday, and even many adults are not sure exactly what an editor does. And since many editors work for themselves, it’s not a career one just falls into. So, how did I become an editor?

It started with my deep and abiding love of books. As far back as I can remember, I loved to read. I spent hours in my local public and school libraries, and it was no surprise to anyone when I decided in sixth grade that I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up. I chased that dream through much of the rest of my education, earning my undergraduate degree in English, two teaching credentials (so that I could be a school librarian), and a Master of Library and Information Science degree. My dream came true when I was hired as the librarian for a San Diego high school, and I had a wonderful time sharing my love of books and reading with the students and staff there. The downside, though, to working in a public school system is that staffing is determined largely based on seniority, and as the rookie librarian in the district, I ultimately lost my position to somebody with more seniority when budget cuts forced many of the district’s librarians out of their jobs.

That left me with a choice. I could work as a substitute librarian and hope to someday be hired back as a school’s permanent librarian. I could seek employment in one of San Diego’s public libraries. Or, I could go to work on the other end of the literary spectrum, helping people prepare books for publication instead of recommending them to people once they were published. I had worked as an editor for various companies on a part-time basis since college, not to mention the countless papers and essays I’d edited for my undergraduate classmates, family members, and students along the way. I’d also gone back to school while working as a librarian to earn my copyediting certificate, just in case I ever wanted to do more editing.

After many long conversations with my husband, I had my answer: I was going to see if I could make it as a full-time editor. I was fortunate to still have those companies around, happy to hire me for editing services once more, and I was able to build my client base from there. I also realized that I loved being an editor as much as I’d loved being a librarian; without expecting it, I had transitioned from one dream career into another.

And that, in short–well, really, in long–is how I became an editor. Stay tuned for next time, when I’ll talk about that mystery of what exactly it is an editor does. See you then!

Classes and Blogs

Hello everyone!

This past week, I had the distinct pleasure of recording two interviews with fabulous author and teacher Kitty Bucholtz. Kitty is currently gearing up to teach a series of online classes about self-publishing, and she asked me if I’d lend a little insight into the editing portion of the process…which, of course, I was more than happy to do! The experience got me thinking two things: first, that I should let you all know about Kitty’s classes, which will be an excellent resource for any of you considering going the self-publication route, and second, that perhaps I should do a blog series answering some of those editing FAQs about which many of you may be wondering. So, with that in mind…

If you are looking to self-publish but aren’t quite sure where to begin, look no further! Kitty’s got a class for you starting as early as this June that will guide you through each and every step of the process and lead you to self-publication success (not to mention that you’ll get to see her interviews with me!). Visit her at to read more about her classes and to sign up.


Have you heard that you should hire an editor but aren’t quite sure how that will help you? Are you wondering what exactly an editor does or how the editing process works? Never fear! My next few blogs will answer those questions I’m most frequently asked by friends and clients alike, including:

  • How did you become an editor?
  • What exactly does an editor do, anyway?
  • How does the editing process work?
  • Where do your rates come from?
  • What types of materials do you edit?
  • Why do I need an editor?

If you have a question not on this list that you’d like answered, please don’t hesitate to let me know! My goal is to take some of the mystery out of the editing process so that you can reap all the benefits of having an editor and end up with a manuscript that’s the best it can possibly be. Watch for the answer to the first question in the next week. In the meantime, happy reading and writing!