How I Became a Copy Editor and Proofreader

Timeline
  • 2008: I started reading science fiction and fantasy books from my local library. I took my first proofreading course: Basic Proofreading by the Publishing Training Centre.
  • 2009: I wrote science fiction and fantasy stories based on my condition Asperger Syndrome.
  • 2012: I started self-publishing my books.
  • 2014: I applied my writing knowledge by gaining copy editing and proofreading experience, working on friends’ stories.
  • 2015: I took courses in copy editing and proofreading by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.
  • 2016: I took a fiction editing course by an experienced fiction editor.
  • 2017: I took another fiction editing course by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). I joined the SfEP as an entry-level member.
  • 2018: I self-taught myself how to use some of Paul Beverley’s macros for more efficient onscreen editing. I created written resources for autistic and non-autistic writers.
My story

I started learning proofreading in 2008, and I completed the Publishing Training Centre’s Basic Proofreading course in 2010. It taught me much about how traditionally published books were proofread and where the profession came from. What appealed to me in proofreading was the freedom to work on my own, and at my own pace, and this hasn’t changed.

I also started writing in 2010, and for a few years starting a proofreading business was on hold while I wrote full-length science fiction and fantasy stories, and published them. My background as an indie science fiction and fantasy author from 2012 taught me how to write, self-edit, format, and publish: to ultimately prepare a book for publishing. I learnt best practices and how to work in MS Word. Over time I became more aware that I found preparing a book for publishing immediately applicable to my particular set of skills, than reaching out to readers as an author. Whatever anybody else says, being an author is a proper job/career, and I respect the creativity authors have in writing and promoting. It’s inspiring.

From 2014 my skills and experience as an indie author led to proofreading and copy editing the stories of friends and author contacts for experience, and this also helped develop my business and skills. It was around this time that I began to recognise writing not simply as a means of individual expression for publishing that was based on readers’ personal preferences, but as a series of revisions, tools, and techniques for improving quality for readers through ‘editing’. Writing is a craft as well as an art, and it’s my belief that ignoring either can hinder writing.

In 2015 I took further qualifications in both copy editing and proofreading by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, which had sections relevant to working on projects online and for individual authors rather than just on paper and with publishers.

Throughout 2016 I struggled to develop a new system of publishing, or choose a better method, to reach my author goals and aspirations. But things I did learn through research of websites such as the Alliance of Independent Authors and Reedsy were that a quality book and a professional approach to publishing are essential. Before this I had always done my best on my own terms, but this research taught me my approach to writing and publishing wasn’t good enough. Doing ‘everything’ myself was possible and desirable, but it wasn’t efficient and it didn’t lead to the fulfilment of my standards. I came to the conclusion that specialisation by skill or profession is vital. I stopped handling book review requests and seeking book opportunities, and instead decided that where my future was concerned I can help best by copy editing and proofreading authors on their path to publishing.

After this it became a good idea for me to properly learn fiction copy editing and proofreading, and with a combination of self-study and courses during 2016–18 I became well versed in the subject.

Writing and fiction editing books - photoIn 2017 I became an entry-level member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). Being a member of the SfEP helps me keep up to date with trends, working practices, networking, and continuing professional development. The SfEP has been valuable as a means of support and in gaining likeminded contacts.