What I Wish I’d Known This Time Last Year

As I mentioned in my last post, I like to do things right. I get a bit twitchy about not having some kind of procedure to follow, hence why my last job – coming up with procedures and trying to get everyone else to follow them – suited me down to the ground.

So, when I decided to make that huge scary leap into freelance fiction editing, I did what I always do: I set about researching how it all worked. I spent hours reading the websites of established fiction editors. When they recommended another website, I headed over there and read that one. I joined the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, and bought all the books and guides they recommended. I gobbled up every forum thread and blog post that asked “what do you wish you’d known when you were starting out?”. There was a wealth of knowledge and advice that wonderful, experienced editors were only too happy to give out, to try and help us newbies. I was, and remain, astonished by and grateful for their generosity.


There was SO MUCH ADVICE. And me being me, I tried to take it all on board. I tried to follow all of the advice, all at once. I did my very best to make sure that before I even edited a word, I had all of my ducks in a row.

It was impossible. I ended up more petrified than ever. I was completely overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start. Getting it right was this huge mountain, and I didn’t see how I was ever going to climb it.

It took me a lot longer than it should have done to realise that I was going to climb it the way one climbs any mountain – one step at a time. I realised that these wonderful people giving this fantastic advice had one thing in common – they’d learned their lessons the hard way. And while they were just trying to helping newbies like me avoid making those mistakes, they had made them, and their businesses were still standing. I could make the wrong move, and it wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world. But my business would never go anywhere if I was too scared to make any move at all.

I’m not advocating ignoring the wisdom of those who have trod the path before you, or blundering into things without having the faintest clue what you’re doing. But making mistakes is a valuable part of learning, one that nobody can, or should, avoid. For perfectionists like me, that’s a difficult thing to accept, but I’m learning.

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