Finding that line

Today I’m writing a structural report on the manuscript for a novel. I need to get it finished a) to meet a deadline and b) so that I can begin reading the hard copy manuscript of an epic non-fiction work I’m considering taking on.

All of which leads me to ponder, yet again, the roles and responsibilities of a freelance editor.

For starters, I’m technically on holiday, ensconced in a comfy apartment by the ocean with views stretching across parkland to the blue on blue horizon. And yet I’m working … Well, that’s freelance life. I’ve already been for a delicious walk along the coastal path and soaked up an inspiring dose of nature’s medicine. Eaten breakfast on the balcony. Sipped coffee and read the paper. Facebooked with friends.

Now it’s time to work.

And later, I’ll play again.

Freedom, balance, planning and discipline – all part of the job.

Along with discernment, respect and sensitivity, passed through professional filters acquired over decades of doing this kind of work.

I’ve no doubt talked before about the feelings of privilege and responsibility that come when one is entrusted with the intimate work of writers. Today, the fiction manuscript I’m working with is the writer’s third novel. This writer has already earned acclaim, and publishing success. I am sharply aware of my role in helping to ensure this work has its best chance of again achieving success for the author. So I need to be honest, forthright, constructive and respectful. After all, it’s the writer’s material, with which this person has spent many intimate months or possibly years. I will list my observations, giving examples from the work itself, and make suggestions presented in a lengthy, carefully structured written report. I hope the author will read them thoughtfully and make best use of whatever resonates, to improve and polish the manuscript.

The minute this report is finished and emailed away, I’ll tidy up my paperwork and the backlog of emails and place the weighty stack of manuscript for the next job on my reading table. Make persuasive deals with myself: two hours of solid reading and
note-making, then I can take a break. Play online Scrabble. Go for a wander. Do a set of qigong. Then return for another two hours of solid work.

Oh. And meet that inner commitment to write and post a blog piece, which is overdue.

Did I mention how much I love my working life? Its freedom and structure, the perpetual variety, the challenges and inbuilt rewards?

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