Editing for Someone Else – Ideas or Just Mechanics?

It’s snowing beautifully here in Upstate New York and I’m looking forward to a cozy evening at home. Love to sit somewhere near a wood stove or fireplace with a hot drink and write in weather like this. Unfortunately, I’m at work right now.

This past week little writing has gone on, I’ve been editing for someone else.

Now, I have a wonderful and varied writer’s group. I’ve always enjoyed reading everything people bring in.  We’re all at different points on learning about the craft and most of us write very different things – children’s stories, young adult, chick lit, mysteries, and poetry. We’re a widespread group of people in age and backgrounds. We’re all quite reasonable and good discussions have been had some evenings.

What I am editing right now is something else entirely. My husband has a co-worker who wrote “a book” that he sent out to one publisher and it was rejected. He told my husband that it was short and asked if I would be willing to edit it for fifty dollars. It’s the end of the year and Christmas so I said, “of course!”

The problem I’m having is that it’s basically a religious tract aimed at no longer participating or minimally participating members of his own religion, his position being that if you are not a devout member of this particular Christian group, you are going to hell. His goal is to bring people back to his religion.

I was once a member of his particular brand of Christianity and left it for my own reasons so I have some fairly good knowledge of what he’s writing about. I could debate with him the accuracy of many points he makes, but I figure I’m not here to edit his ideas.

My plan is to simply stick to the punctuation, spelling and grammar plus warn on copyright, including the use of summarized or paraphrased works. Would I have taken this on if I had known the content? Not sure.

I’ve already talked to him about the fact that different versions of the bible are copyrighted. I found a pretty good primer on what you can and can’t use here, if anyone is interested. Yes, it’s a bible but people tend to think of it as THE BIBLE. Remember, it’s a compilation of books.  It has been added to and removed from over time and translated from the original, and not so original, many times over. Many of those versions are under copyright.

Another problem I’m running into is that I suspect a lot of his information is summarized or paraphrased from other sources.  Perhaps I shouldn’t assume that everyone knows the difference between quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing is, and that they still have to be cited.  If you derived your information from another source, you need to cite it, whether you put the other author’s words in quotation marks, summarized the major points of a larger work in your own words or paraphrased a small portion of it by condensing only slightly and putting it in your own words.

Not sure I like this editing for other people thing.

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2 Comments

  1. January 13, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    It all depends on what the author wants so it’s important to have a meeting with them before the edits start. Sometimes they just want a grammatical work-over, sometimes they want a deeper look into structure and content. Have an open and honest discussion with them to get a good grasp on what they expect form you as an editor. In general stick to the grammar unless they specifically tell you they want more.

    • melorajohnson said,

      January 14, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll keep that in mind if I ever do this again.


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