Editor: Ranee Boyd Tomlin Company: Words for Stories Number of years in editing: Six years, part time. I also write and research. And I've had gigs as a teaching assistant for online content-writing courses, helping students learn how to self-edit—which have been some of my favorite work in the editing business.
Tell us a little about yourself, including how you got started as an editor?
I’ve been in the world of work for a long time and have enjoyed several careers. From court reporting through earning an MDiv and then a PhD in higher education and adult learning, the common thread was words, stories, writing, researching, editing, and proofreading.
In 2014 I decided to leave my last university position and freelance somewhere that uses my experience and skills. After researching and experimenting with a few possibilities, I settled on copyediting—and with my background as a learning fanatic, I enrolled in the copyediting certificate program at the University of California, San Diego Extension. I graduated at the end of August 2015, and my learning in this challenging field has continued since then.
What is your area of focus and why did you select this niche?
Because of my long, diverse professional and personal backgrounds, I know a little about a lot. A number of times, I've tried to focus on a niche; but people keep asking me to do a variety of things, and when something interests me, I give it a go. By now my portfolio is eclectic, to say the least. That makes marketing challenging, but I'm never bored.
The closest I come to a niche is my consistent messaging that I work on stories. Whether the writing is fiction, nonfiction, or content, I look for narratives. Truth be told, though, I see stories in everything, even numbers; and I’m still waiting for someone to ask me to copyedit recipes.
Walk us through a typical workday. How do you manage your time?
I do too many different types of things to have a typical workday, and my time management depends on whether I'm working on deadline. But I rely on my trusty paper calendar to stay organized and on track; I jot down daily goals and work until I meet them. And when I'm working, I'm not easily distracted. I've always had a personality that dives deep into the task at hand and doesn't come up easily.
What is your favorite thing about being an editor?
Researching the best way to handle a question of spelling, grammar, style, or fact.
What is your biggest challenge and how do you work through this?
I’m thorough and careful to the point that my copyediting is slower than that of most. This means I work for only clients willing to pay me a high-enough rate to make my time worthwhile, and for those able to fit my timetable. I'm neither fast nor cheap, but I try to be good. And very reliable.
What are you currently working on?
I just finished revising the “About” page of an artist’s website, and I'm about to start (another) creative nonfiction writing course, out of which I hope to publish again soon. Because I needed to take care of multiple pressing family issues the past couple of months, I’ve turned down all long copyediting and proofreading projects since I completed the copyedit of a legal-thriller novel in June; but I’m curious to see what might come up next—and whether I can fit it around my writing class, since that’s my current commitment.
What advice do you have for someone who is just starting their career as an editor?
You don't know what you don't know—so presume you don't know, and make continuous learning and checking your mantra. And as soon as you do know, it will change; so learn and check again.