[Image description: A laptop, a cup of coffee, a 2021 planner and an open pencil case sit on a wooden table. The pencil case has writing utensils falling out of it.]

Image description: Grace is holding up a copy of The Wing Thief by Samantha Atkins, publishing by SmashBear Publishing. Baby’s breath and daffodils are in the background.

I have always been someone who has really needed a distinction between my personal and my professional space. My undergrad days saw me living in the library until 11 p.m. most nights, just so I wouldn’t have to work in my room. This mentality has made working from home very difficult for me. However, there’s a silver lining to everything. The Working From Home (WFH) order has granted me a unique opportunity, and that is getting to work for two publishing houses – SmashBear Publishing and Jasami Publishing Ltd. – simultaneously. SmashBear Publishing started in May 2020 and has always been based virtually, while Jasami Publishing Ltd. is situated in Glasgow. Little old me, in Edinburgh, would never have been able to work for both of these  companies (alongside my part-time retail job in Edinburgh), so working from home has actually allowed me to gain more experience than I would have pre-COVID.

Both of my placements supplement each other and my learning, differing in how I am being asked to do the work, which will be useful for when I try to break into Editorial as a future career. 

“Editorial, that’s quite simple, right?” I hear you ask. 

“Wrong,” I say to you. It isn’t just about making sure that there are no spelling or grammar mistakes (SPAG errors, as we like to say in the industry), but about looking at the manuscript as a whole and making sure that it works. While I had learned about the differing levels of editorial work – line and developmental editing – in theory as part of my MSc Publishing degree, putting that theory into practice has been an eye-opening experience. 

I’m definitely more of a practical learner, so getting to put my degree to use has been really exciting. Both of my placements have focused on me editing two upcoming novels, but they have been drastically different experiences. At SmashBear Publishing, I’m working as part of an Editorial team, which is composed of two editors, two publishers, and the author. We are all working collaboratively on the same document, allocating responsibility accordingly. Developmental edits have been allocated to the publishers, where the other editor and myself have been allocated line edits. We read the entire manuscript but only alternating chapters,  then exchanging them once we have completed all of our initial responsibilities. This allows us to focus on the technicalities of the chapter, breaking it down into scenes and paragraphs, without getting sucked into the story and missing important details. It becomes a much more piecemeal task, which you think would be counterintuitive, but it actually helps you to stay objective and understand the workings of the story in a more technical manner.

With SmashBear Publishing, I am learning how to edit collaboratively, which was a huge misconception that I had about the industry before this. I’m really enjoying the sense of camaraderie and the connections I’m building.We have meetings at significant milestones in the project, discussing our thoughts on the manuscript and creating a plan together to improve it going forward. It’s interesting to see how different people pick up on different plot inconsistencies and weaknesses, and how there are always a variety of solutions to choose from.

It is a very different story over at Jasami Publishing Ltd., but no less valuable in building up my knowledge and experience. I am the solo Editor on this particular project, working on both developmental and line edits. This essentially means that instead of focusing on fixing technical errors in the plot, I am responsible for the actual development of the plot itself. I read the whole manuscript and alongside fixing SPAG errors, I also ensure the fabric of the plot is consistent and exciting, mending any holes that I spot. This happens chapter by chapter and once I have made my suggested edits, it goes back to the author and my Head Editor for approval.

My work for Jasami Publishing Ltd. has shown me that I enjoy editorial freedom. I enjoy being involved in the text at a deeper level, taking care with the manuscript and identifying areas that  have potential to improve the text. It’s also really encouraging knowing my work has spoken for itself and it is that sense of trust which my author and Head Editor have in me that allows me this freedom.

While I have the same job title for each position, I am utilising different skills in each one, and more importantly, learning a variety of lessons which will be invaluable to me in future career pursuits. I have proven to myself – and future employers – that I am both assertive and able to tackle big projects on my own, but also that I an active, reliable and collaborative team member, who can see projects through until the end.