December’s Featured Writer/Editor: Rachelle M. N. Shaw

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As I make the final edits to my manuscript, I thought it fitting that December’s featured writer is also an editor. As we all know, one of the most important stages in writing, aside from getting the words down on paper, is editing. I’m fortunate enough to have three awesome editors: my sister and my best friend (who both have professional writing/editing experience) and of course the editor with whom I’ve recently contracted who I will be interviewing today.

authorpicRachelle M. N. Shaw is a professional writer/editor. She’s been dabbling in writing throughout her childhood and young adulthood: mostly journals, short stories, and poetry. Currently, her focus is on short stories and novels. She also maintains several websites focused on grammar, editing, and writing. She earned her bachelor’s in professional writing from Purdue University with minors in German and psychology. She’s been working as a professional/technical writer and editor since college.

I learned of Rachelle’s editing services from a mutual friend who referred me to her blog From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing, a blog dedicated to writing and editing, and the craft of both. It contains helpful articles and links with tips about becoming a better writer/editor. From her site, I could tell she knows her subject and is passionate about it. I also learned more about her work as a freelance/contract editor. Rachelle does work for both individuals and for companies, all contract based. She will work with the author on details of the contract and price, which is something not all freelance editors are willing to do. Being a homeowner on a single income, this was definitely a perk.

I’ve been working with her for about a month and a half and am so far pleased. She communicates frequently and honestly. Also, the edits are thorough. So, I thought it kind to share her with my readers, especially those who are interested in resources to improve their writing/grammar.

On with the interview!

Lit Chic: What made you decide to pursue editing as a career?

Rachelle: I’ve always loved learning grammar and punctuation rules, language, the art of writing, and how they all come together. My natural tendency when I read books is to analyze them and their structure. Helping people is another passion of mine, so meshing two things I love—the mechanics of writing and teaching—seemed like a natural fit. It’s been amazing working with several talented authors and watching them grow as writers. I’m even more fortunate to be able to do that from my own home so I can be a full-time mom too.

Lit Chic: What education is recommended for a career in editing/professional writing?

Rachelle: There are a few different paths you can take to become a professional writer/editor, but the one I most recommend is obtaining a degree in professional writing. It teaches you a variety of skills, including technical writing, web design and coding, creative writing, review writing, other general graphic design and advertising elements. It also gives you the flexibility to study areas outside the liberal arts field, such as math and science, and that makes you extremely marketable for a variety of positions. In addition to giving me the skills I needed to be self-employed as a contract editor, it’s allowed me to work for firms in resistance welding, parts manufacturing, and medical supplies.

Lit Chic: Tell me about your blog, the workshops you host, and your editing services:

Rachelle: I have one writing blog that I run, From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing. It is located both on Blogger and on Tumblr, with Tumblr being the extended version that includes writing prompts, giveaways, and more. Both include tips, tricks, and general advice articles about writing and editing.

Via a listing on Yeah Write! (another writing blog on Tumblr), I host a few free writing workshops throughout the year. In these workshops, I work with individual authors to go over either a specific piece that they have questions about or to answer any general questions they have about writing and the mechanics of the English language.The amount of time spent on a workshop depends on the questions the author has and the length of the piece, though I generally don’t do workshops for pieces longer than 15-20 pages. If anyone is interested in doing a workshop, they can contact me via my Tumblr account.

As far as editing services I offer, an individual can choose anything from the most basic type of editing (copyediting) to detailed editing with comments and suggestions throughout the whole story, including plot, character, and world development (full editing). I can do as much or as little as the author likes. I also include an assessment of the piece, upon request, to let the author know where the story stands in terms of publication. (I.e. Is it ready to submit, and what work does it need to get there?) Detailed descriptions of all my services can be found on my editing site Rachelle M. N. Shaw: Professional Editing and Design.

I also have a series I started on my Tumblr blog From Mind to Paper: The Extended Version where writers can submit up to five paragraphs from a short story or novel, and with their permission, I then edit it and publish it on my site as an example edit. It’s a good way for authors to get a bit of free editing and to have their writing shared/promoted.

Lit Chic: What inspired you to start your blog? Why grammar?

Rachelle: Starting a writing blog had been a goal of mine since my early days in college, though I didn’t start mine until recently. I wanted to share my experience with other aspiring writers out there to hopefully help them improve their writing and give them tips for working through some of the challenges that many writers face. I chose to do a series on grammar and punctuation recently, The Grammar Grind, because I know it’s something a lot of people struggle with, both writers and non-writers alike. There are so many rules and exceptions, particularly with punctuation placement, that it’s difficult to keep them straight sometimes, and having a few handy references about such things makes learning them a bit easier.

Lit Chic: Please describe the market for free-lance editing:

Rachelle: I’d say the market for freelance editing is doing pretty well right now. I’ve actually noticed more and more editors promoting their services lately, particularly online, and it’s really encouraging to see so many people interested in writing and editing. However, I think part of the reason for the surge in freelance editors has to do with the poor economy right now. Many people with general degrees (and even advanced ones in other areas of study) are falling back on jobs like freelance writing and editing simply because they are struggling to find a job elsewhere.

Having said that, I think there will always be a market for freelance editors. Not all publishing houses have their own editors, and some require that you have your work edited by a professional before they’ll accept it. The world is full of writers, and as a result, it’s full of manuscripts that need edited as well.

Lit Chic: How do your services differ from others?

Rachelle: I provide a wide range of editing services from basic copyediting and proofreading to developmental and structural editing. Not all editors provide the different services; some only specialize in one or two areas. I also differ in my price. Some freelance editors will charge upwards of $70-$80 an hour, something I would never dream of charging. I base my rates off the average rates of other professional editors, my level of experience, and past editing projects I’ve had. I include a free initial assessment of manuscripts upon request and offer some different payment plans for those who can’t pay the full amount all at once.

Lit Chic: Do you think it’s essential for writers to seek out editing services prior to seeking an agent? Can an author effectively edit their own work?

Rachelle: Well, this one is tough. On one hand, there are some successful authors out there who edited their own work and never had a professional look over it before submitting it, and they managed to get their work published and have it sell well. However, the chances of you actually having that happen are slim to none. So my advice is always to at least get your work assessed by a professional, but I strongly recommend having it edited before submitting it for publication.

There are a couple reasons for this. A well-polished manual not only is more attractive to agents and publishers alike simply because it’s easier to read, but it also lets the publisher and the reader know exactly how you want the sentence to be read. It also increases the chances of publication. If you spend all that time and effort trying to create a professional work of art that you want to sell, it’s a good idea to make it the best it can possibly be before submitting it. You’re trying to sell your skills and talents as much as you are your manuscript. You wouldn’t show up to a job interview ill prepared or in grungy clothes, so why would you take shortcuts when marketing your manuscript?

Editing your own work is a fantastic start, but it’s still a good idea to have a professional look over it for things you might have missed. Even if you are a professional yourself, it’s good practice to have a second set of eyes (or two) checking your work; it’s hard to catch every mistake, especially in your own work.

Lastly, do some research when you’re looking for an editor. You’ll need to find an editor that is a good match for you. A good editor will work with you on developing your ideas, not rewriting the story the way they want it written. A good editor will also provide you with a reason for any changes, preferably with reputable sources to back up those changes.

Lit Chic: Any tips for aspiring writers when it comes to the writing or editing process.

Rachelle: Hang in there, keep trying, and keep learning. No magnificent piece of writing was ever developed over night, and writing is one of those wonderful fields where you’re always a student. There’s no such thing as learning too much.

Also, I know the editing process can be a bit daunting, but don’t be intimidated by ripping apart your own work or asking others for their opinion. While it’s hard to work on a piece and change it, the end result is worth it. Not only will your writing continue to improve by doing so, but so will the piece you’re working on. When you’ve finally gotten everything just how you want it and the piece is completely polished, you’ll know it. Writing is a learning process for everyone, amateurs and experts alike.

You can learn more about Rachelle, her writing, and her editing services on the following links:

Blogger: http://rmnsediting.blogspot.com/

Tumblr: http://dreamwriter12.tumblr.com/

Author site: http://author.rachellemnshaw.com/

Editing site: http://rmnsediting.rachellemnshaw.com/

Don’t forget to check out our next featured author in January. If you know of an author who you feel deserves a spotlight, contact me and I’ll consider them for a future post.

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