I have a client who works for a marketing agency. He’s a great strategist and an excellent writer. But like everyone else in the agency, he’s usually running. A typical day includes multiple projects, all on tight schedules, all for demanding clients. And I’ve never heard this guy complain.
In fact, he’s so good at his job that I was surprised when he recently asked me to edit one of his sales guides. He had produced great content really fast but the prose still needed polish. He didn’t have enough time and decided that some fresh eyes might be a good idea anyway.
Technically, this is editing, but I like to call it “team writing.” That’s because I often restructure, rewrite, and rethink assumptions. This really works best for someone who has a degree of separation from the material. Yes, of course it also includes correcting minor mistakes that even the best writers make when they’re rushing.
After I sent him the revisions, my client left a nice voice mail for me. He mentioned that at several places in the revisions, he thought, “Duh! Why didn’t I write it that way in the first place?” That’s a nice compliment—my rewrites fit so well that the changes seemed obvious later.
Another example: a colleague asked me to help edit a research report with lots of data compiled by different authors in different formats and styles. The time line was just too short and the job too big for one writer.
I have a technical writing background, so I took the first pass at unpacking and reorganizing the (really) raw material and cleaning up the language. She started with the big picture, looking over all the topics and building a sensible table of contents. She also worked with the clients to get missing information and solve other issues.
When I was done, my colleague edited all of the chapters again, taking special care to ensure a consistent voice and conformity in the terminology. Throughout the process we chatted by phone or email, making decisions, thinking up new questions for the clients, and occasionally whining to each other.
The key was that we each played to our strengths, and could lean on each other when we needed to. As a result, we got the job done faster and with much less frustration.
More people are coming to me with their content and asking, “Can you fix this?” Or, “This really needs another set of eyes.” Or, “I can’t do this alone.” I’m happy to critically—but ever so politely—review the copy and figure out how to improve it.
Bloggers and writers don’t often have the luxury of an editor, so we just do the best we can–which should still be better (!) than average. But when I get the chance to team up, I take it. And I appreciate people who spot the occasional lapses in my own writing. They give me a chance to improve.
As I said at the beginning, nobody is the best editor of their own writing.
Do you do a lot of writing without any feedback or help? I feel sorry for you. Go ahead and complain in a comment below!