How I Became An Editor

happiness

From about mid-November through the first week of January, a freelance editor in her first few years of business can expect a bit of a slowdown, one she should relish in, using the time to relax and reflect on the year. This year, the transition from feast to famine was hardest on my heart. It wasn’t a matter of finances; I’ve learned to  save up for slower times. It was hard because I wasn’t doing the thing I loved most: partnering with new authors to transform their books into engaging, publishable works. The lack of purpose felt boring at best, but was often depressing. Now, as business picks up again, I feel whole. This is the thing that makes me happy. A life of reading and coffee shops and mingling with authors. Helping others – sometimes by taking a knife to their manuscript. It’s no wonder so many people ask how I got here, whether they’re curious about my background or they’re trying to find the thing that makes them happy. Either way, it’s my pleasure to share it with you.

It started in high school, where I was a staff writer on my high school newspaper, The Colonels’ Journal, during my sophomore and junior years. I was promoted to News Editor as a senior. After requesting full creative control from both the Editor-in-Chief and my teacher, I completely revamped the front page and interior news section of the paper, for which I earned a nomination for the Sun-Sentinel Best Editorial award. I had always loved to write, and I learned in high school that I also loved the design and editing aspects of running a newspaper. I applied to the University of Central Florida and was readily accepted to its Nicholson School of Communication for the Fall semester.

At UCF, I volunteered as a writing tutor at the University Writing Center—which I loved. My peers were so appreciative of me, not just for catching errors in their work before they turned it in, but for guiding them toward becoming better writers in general. The experience was beyond fulfilling, and helped me grow as both a writer and editor. To this day I am a strong advocate of mutually beneficial peer-critiquing.

Admittedly, during my attendance at UCF I also changed my major seven times. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew I loved writing, but was convinced journalism was a dying field. I majored in English at one point, but was worried about career prospects with that degree, too. Did I really want to be an English teacher? Finally I settled on Communication. I still wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to do, but I loved learning about human interests and relationship dynamics—both in a professional sphere and a personal one. And during my time at UCF, that was enough.

I graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts and Science in Interpersonal & Organizational Communication. After graduating, I moved to Texas and landed a “great job” I had little interest in, but which allowed me time to write. I eventually transitioned from Sales to an admin role, where my primary task was to proofread all documents, reports and correspondence before anything was transmitted to a client. Finally! It was my actual job to be a perfectionist!

While I do have a natural desire to help others, I didn’t realize I could have such an enormous impact on other writers until I became a member of peer-critiquing groups. For years I was proofreading for my friends and suggesting big story-level changes for their writing, and they started taking my advice! When some of those friends actually published their books – successfully! – I knew I’d found my calling. I stopped critiquing for “free” and became a freelancer in August of 2012, eventually quitting my 8-to-5 so I could edit full time. The best part is: some of those friends I critiqued for are now coming back to me, on their second or third or fourth books, and hiring me to provide the same service I had offered for free the first time—which feels, well, totally cool.

Now I’m here. I’m an editor! It’s who I am, it’s what I do. When I’m not editing, I’m learning how to do it better through reading, “testing” myself with online skills tests, attending conferences, and networking with fellow professionals in my field. I keep a close eye on the publishing industry—both indie and traditional—and learn from every client I work with.

Are you ready to hire an exceptional editor? Peruse my website, and if you like what you see, send me an email: michelle@mjbookeditor.com. If you’re seeking an editor who loves what she does and feels proud of her work, I just might be your girl.

Happy Writing!

MJ

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