Part-time authoring is no picnic, I have concluded. Both of my authors have full-time lives – one working a full-time job in addition to being husband and father, the other a full-time homeschooling mom to two very active kids – and writing is something they passionately want to do. But, making the time to get it done is a challenge even the most talented juggler would find daunting. So, I check in with them from time to time, a gentle prod to assure them I’m still here and ready to get to work as soon as they’ve wrapped up their draft.
I’ve decided that while I am waiting for my authors to complete their manuscripts, I should be working on my own skills. I got this idea over a year ago that I wanted to be a proofreader and editor, and got the ball rolling by finding an author to hone my skills on. But, I got caught putting all my eggs in one basket (okay, now two baskets) and have inadvertently put the brakes on building my own business and developing my own skills. Deciding it was time to put myself back into gear and make some progress of my own, I shifted my focus to education and to finding other unwary souls to use as test subjects.
On the education end of things, I pulled out my copy of Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies for some ideas, and ended up purchasing a self-paced copy editing course from the MediaBistro website, which I have been working through. In all honesty, I have not been terribly impressed with the quality of the course, however it has been an excellent tool for challenging my own editing skills and I have learned a lot by going through the assignments. Once I’ve completed that work, I’ll be going back through the Dummies exercises as a refresher, and building my own “checklist” to use as I edit and proof manuscripts.
I’ve also been collecting and reading a variety of resource books, many of which I have found to be an entertaining read in addition to providing invaluable information. I’d already purchased The Chicago Manual of Style, and recently added The Associated Press Stylebook to my bag. I picked up The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage andStyle, and Garner’s Modern AmericanUsage, which turned out to be one of the more entertaining reads. And I’ve got a list of other resource books to purchase and utilize as my budget allows, including Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Elements of Style, and Proofreading Handbook. So many books, so little time.
Under the heading "practice, practice, practice" I've started comparison editing for Distributed Proofreaders, the volunteer organization that provides ebooks for Project Gutenberg. I've just started out as a "beginner" so have a mentor checking my work as I complete it. Each page of a book is scanned and run through a computer program that spits it out in edit-able form. Volunteers take each page, one page at a time, and check every line and character to be sure the produced document matches the scanned page. There are layers of editing, and a pretty long series of steps involved in getting a full text transferred to ebook and posted on the Project Gutenberg website. It's not really "proofreading" in the traditional sense, but line-by-line comparison editing. It takes the same attention to detail, and is something I did on occasion when I was working for a property management firm; checking every line of a legal document to ensure that all agreed-upon changes were included, and all copies of the document to be signed by all parties were exactly alike.
On the business end of things, I’ve been on the lookout for “free” clients; people who may need some proofreading or editing done, and are willing to let me do it for the experience. I really only need a few choice projects to put on my resume, then I’ll be ready to start plying my trade and making a living.
Upward and onward!