by Karin Beery
Very few people hope to fail at their jobs. Most people want to succeed, and many of us want to excel at what we do. I, for one, don’t just want to be a substantive fiction editor. I want to be the substantive fiction editor that writers turn to when they have problems and questions.
Understanding your job and doing it well, however, does not guarantee that you’ll achieve the status you’re hoping for. Clients can be fickle and opinions are subjective, so there will be times when you’ve done your best, but the result will disappoint. I’ve experienced two such glaring failures in my career.
The first was a case of extreme miscommunication. Having performed several edits in the past, I knew what to expect from the process. The writer, however, did not. I thought everything had been explained properly, but that wasn’t the case. The writer was shocked and upset to see the extensive edit, which led to questions of my ability as an editor as well as my faith as a Christian.
Did I do the job I was hired to do? Yes. Did I do it well? I believe so. Did I provide the excellent service and experience that I thought I was giving to my client? Obviously not. Even though I stand by the work I performed, the experience was a failure.
The second was a case of extreme misunderstanding. The writer received lots of praise for and support of the manuscript before contracting with me, but she knew she needed to hire an editor. I made sure to clarify what type of work I would be doing (even sending sample chapters to show how things were progressing) to make sure I didn’t have another miscommunication.
I expected to work with her to correct issues in her manuscript. Instead, she thanked me for my worked and politely declined to make any changes.
Did I do the job I was hired to do? Yes. Did I do it well? I believe so. Did I provide the excellent service and experience I thought I was giving to my client? Seemingly so. But just because the process went smoothly doesn’t mean the end result met my expectations. In many ways, I felt like a failure.
My goal with every edit is to help the writers polish their manuscripts to attract a publisher’s attention, but I cannot control every factor. What I can do is continue to learn – I can turn every failure (and every success) into a learning opportunity.
Will I fail again? I’m sure it will happen, but that doesn’t mean I stop trying. Regardless of what happens, I can make sure I’m always doing my best for every client. That, in my opinion, is the excellence we should be striving for.
Owner of Write Now Editing and Copywriting Services, Karin Beery specializes in fiction and professional business copy. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the American Christian Writers Association. A Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network member, she is the Substantive Editing for Fiction instructor for the PEN Institute. Karin is represented by literary agent Steve Hutson at Word Wise Media. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website, www.karinbeery.com.