Tag Archives: copyediting

The Free(lance) Folk

There are so many articles out there about how to make the move from full-time work to freelance, and practically all of them advise having a 6-12 month “safety net” in place before doing so. There’s even a good handful of articles about how to jump into freelancing *without* the safety net…but even in all those articles the writer seems to find a way to get their freelance income to basically equal their full-time income before they make the leap. What I don’t see out there is advice for what to do if freelancing is thrust upon you due to job loss, you have zero safety net, you still haven’t made close to your old salary after a year, and lately you haven’t even been able to set money aside for taxes because your monthly bills are eating most of your income. Yeah. There’s no advice for that.

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I love freelancing. I love setting my own schedule and being on my own. I love working from home, or from wherever I want. I love not having ridiculous corporate evaluations. I no longer need to feel like my skills aren’t valued because I’m not an extrovert who prances about making small-talk. I even would enjoy being responsible for the money…if there were enough of it there.

The problem is that I just DO NOT know how to piece together anywhere near what I was making before. Right now I’m not even making close to what I made fresh out of college when I was 22. In publishing. In 2004. My student loans have gone down since then, and my car is paid off, but I have credit card debt from vacations I took when I had a real job and thought I’d be able to pay them down, and the student loans aren’t going anywhere. I can’t save. I’m way behind in the money I need to be setting aside for taxes, and I have anxiety attacks about it at 4:30 in the morning because, you know, that’s the perfect time to be thinking about money.

So how do you do it? How do these people who freelance edit/write survive? Are they all married to rich people? If not, where are they finding the high-paying gigs and/or the time to squish enough work into the week that they make enough? I can’t even afford to live anywhere but my grandmother’s attic. And how do you do it when no one really believes that you can and doesn’t think it’s worth trying?

I just recently picked up another editing client. It’s been helping fill in the gaps around getting papers from my main client. I have one writing gig that brings in a bit of extra cash. Then I random get little temporary marketing writing gigs that I sort of just stumble into through connections that also bring in a bit of extra cash. But I never have enough. I have budgets. I know how much I need to be making. I just haven’t been able to do it. I wanted to be able to write a “How to Freelance When You’ve Been Thrown Into It” article, but it’s more like I need someone to write one for ME.

For now I’m going to keep going. I’m going to get a loan for whatever I can’t pay in taxes and use any extra to put towards my credit cards. Then I’ll have just one payment to handle (or at least one less payment). I’ll really focus on my editing and churn out a paper a day every day I have one available. There will be more days where that’s possible now that I have two clients. I’ve only just started getting paychecks from the second client, so maybe it will start to improve a little. And if someone wants to write that advice column for what to do when you have no safety net and didn’t waltz right into a high salary, I’d love to read it.

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Punctuation personalities.

Sometimes being a playwright and also being a copyeditor collide in really weird ways. I already obsess over punctuation way more than the average person, but when I’m writing, it takes on a whole new level. It’s more than just “this character wouldn’t speak in really long sentences or use big words.” The different punctuation marks actually start to take on different personalities. And it’s hard to use them, even if they’re grammatically correct, if their personalities don’t match those of whoever is talking.

Is that weird? Does that even make sense? It’s like, semicolons. That’s a big one. I obviously know how to use them (for the non-grammarians: basically you need to have a complete sentence on either side), but they feel really official and kind of snooty. Very few, if any, of my characters would ever use a semicolon. So if someone is speaking in short phrases, I find myself either splitting them into short sentences or using a comma, even if the comma is incorrect and should be a semicolon.

But herein, of course, lies a new problem. Sometimes you don’t want to use two separate sentences because that divide feels too “major.” But the comma would be grammatically incorrect. And that really irritates my inner copyeditor. And I start thinking about a million steps down the line, about how if this script ever got published someday, the copyeditor working on it would think that I don’t know how to use correct grammar. And then that copyeditor would change my commas to semicolons, and then not only will I look stupid, but those lines won’t “feel” right.

I’m working on a new play now, and I just wrote three little independent thoughts in a row, and separate sentences would’ve felt too divided. But semicolons would have just been… wrong. Too intellectual. So I used commas and felt really weird about it, like chewing gum in school or something, and had to come write this.

I obviously don’t mind using sentence fragments and things like that in creative writing. But punctuation is different. It’s not supposed to be creative (unless it’s the interrobang). But, in my world, an ellipsis is totally different from writing “(pause),” which is also different from writing “(beat).”  A “pause” in my brain is longer than a “beat.” An ellipsis is someone trailing off. It’s not quite a pause. And an em dash means the character is getting cut off and interrupted.

Does anyone else, writer or copyeditor or not, overthink things like this? Or do you overthink about other things that are completely unrelated to writing?

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