Question to my fellow Volunteer Editors...

Goddess_of_Sunshine

Experienced
Joined
Mar 24, 2017
Posts
54
English is my primary language, but I often get requests from writers whose native language is not English.

I don't want anyone to misinterpret what I'm saying, but I find these stories very hard to edit. And it is NOT because I'm racist, but because I end up spending the bulk of my time proofreading and editing.

My primary strengths as an editor are assisting with plot development and flushing out characters. That's what I like to focus on. I enjoy having correspondence with writers, and going back and forth about why characters act and react the way they do, and how all of that affects the plot of the story. I'm good at proof-reading and grammar, and though I know that's part of the job as an editor, that's not where I want to focus. I enjoy being a Volunteer Editor, but my time is limited, and I can't accept every story that comes my way. And the stories written by people whose primary language isn't language takes me MUCH longer than usual to edit and, in a lot of cases, I basically end up almost rewriting the entire story for them. There's the time and effort factor, but my biggest fear is that I miss what the writer is trying to say.

My question to all the other Volunteer Editors, reading this is... what is your approach to accepting stories to edit, and your overall process? Do you accept a story with the understanding that you'll be looking at EVERYTHING (plot, character development, editing, etc...)? Do you just tell the writer that you'll only give verbal feedback, and not help with the actual writing process? Do you help with actual rewrites?

I realize every case is different, but I'd love to hear other's people approach.

TIA!
 
I've been a volunteer editor for ten years now. I look at plot and character development, flow of the story, plus the normal grammar and punctuation. I also watch for inconsistencies such as time, place and names of the characters. I let the author know I'll be over their story twice as it's easy to miss something. I also tell them I'm not as fast as I once was, so if they are in a rush to get their story submitted then they need to find someone else. If the author is from the UK or Australia, I then ask what version of English they want to use.
 
Flushing out characters? Is that when they hide behind trees? :)

As more of an author than editor, I find that as soon my input becomes more about plot and character development than basic line editing, I get the urge to rewrite things - and that can be frustrating, because ultimately it's not my story to write.

Editing something where the author's native language isn't English is something I have done, and it works best if there's good interaction with the author about meanings of things when not immediately clear.
 
I don't volunteer as an editor, because it's my day job. And yes, pretty much all of it is for people who don't have English as theit first language.

I count on at least an hour's hard work for 1000 words. And nowadays I set myself a limit of 5000 words a day. After that I'm a wreck.
 
As someone for who English is not in my top 3 of languages I do understand that we can be kind of a bother to edit.

My advice for you, would be to first point them to grammarly or another non IA grammar check. 1 this will make things easier for you, but also doing this should help the writers pick up on their mistakes and learn the basics.

After that just communicate clearly what "service" you are offering and what not. You will be surprised to find most are understanding of boundaries
 
I've been a volunteer editor for ten years now. I look at plot and character development, flow of the story, plus the normal grammar and punctuation. I also watch for inconsistencies such as time, place and names of the characters. I let the author know I'll be over their story twice as it's easy to miss something. I also tell them I'm not as fast as I once was, so if they are in a rush to get their story submitted then they need to find someone else. If the author is from the UK or Australia, I then ask what version of English they want to use.
This is more or less the same as my process. I have worked on several translated to English stories and yes they do take longer to process, but often it is mainly verbs in the wrong place in a sentence.

I don’t write at all, but will rewrite sentences that don’t read correctly. I use edit tracking in whichever software the story arrives, so any changes are suggestions which allows the author to accept or reject them. At the end of the day, it is their story and any mistakes are entirely theirs as I have no way of knowing if they accept the suggestions or not. I don’t visit the story once it is published.
 
I now tell folks looking for an editor that I'm not a spelling and grammar checker and to run their work through one before submitting for editing. IMHO that's just basic politeness, regardless of fluency in English. There are plenty of good free checkers out there regardless of platform they write on, and I provide a list if they ask.

I say that their work doesn't have to be perfect, but they should do their best to fix basic mistakes any spelling and grammar checker will point out. That frees me to focus on higher-level story aspects like plot, flow and character... which I'd hope is what the writer really wants.
 
This is more or less the same as my process. I have worked on several translated to English stories and yes they do take longer to process, but often it is mainly verbs in the wrong place in a sentence.

I don’t write at all, but will rewrite sentences that don’t read correctly. I use edit tracking in whichever software the story arrives, so any changes are suggestions which allows the author to accept or reject them. At the end of the day, it is their story and any mistakes are entirely theirs as I have no way of knowing if they accept the suggestions or not. I don’t visit the story once it is published.
And you were one of the more pleasant editors I worked with
 
I'm not a native English speaker, but I still like to offer editing to Litsters now and then and there have been quite several native speakers among them. From my limited experience, I'd say every story deserves/needs a degree of proofreading but usually, that goes hand in hand with looking for style and consistency issues or logic errors.

But I also think it's very fair to ask the author if they need proofreading, about their English skills, and if they are okay with checking grammar, spelling and punctuation is something left for someone else. There can also be other time-consuming issues, like a limited vocabulary or repetitive patterns, and this is not limited to non-native speakers.
 
I've never been busy enough to have to turn away an author, but several times I have had to tell them that a project would take extra long because of one thing or another that I could trace back to language difference. I try to edit with a light touch, only changing obvious grammar errors and transposed words (a-la, "oh, he obviously meant to write this word instead, that's understandable, they're homophones") because I think there's a neat style that comes out of learning another language and I don't want them to lose that.

There's only been one project I've actually rejected, it was sent to me as a singular 4,000 word paragraph in first person present tense...
 
I offered to do some editing some years ago. One story didn't need much on the grammar and punctuation side, but it was the most boring generic pair of characters being described. I think they had sex. It was that boring. If AI had been invented, I'd have guessed he'd used it, but it and he hadn't. I gave the guy a few suggestions and left it - he didn't want his writeup of his nice date changed.

The other was about 5000 words where the author didn't have English as a fluent language. It might have been a decent story if the English was better, but there were really basic verb tenses being mixed, subject-verb agreement... Stuff that a student of English should know if they actually go through and check. I eventually told him he needed to sort them all out - gave a list of error types - and to get back when he'd done his best. Never heard back.

Since then I only offer beta reading, and generally only when a story sounds interesting.
 
Back
Top