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Mission Creep: Editing-->Writing

Scope creep is inevitable. I've accepted that, along with the fact that "final copy" rarely is.

This week I had a new situation come up. I was asked to proofread an article being submitted for a newsletter. I've written *and* edited articles for this particular newsletter before, so I know what tone and length they're looking for. The article given to me was horribly written, too long, and trying to accomplish too many things in one go.

It was accompanied by the author's breezy assurance that it was final and shouldn't take any longer than half an hour to proof. I have *not* edited for this person previously, btw, so I simply said I'd contact her if I thought it would take longer. That half an hour ended up being used to do a quick proofread of some of it (clearly identified), and I outlined for her what had been done and why I felt it really needed more substantial editing/rewriting. I praised the solid factual content, and defined how it was suitable for two articles: one leading, and the other a more in-depth background piece.

The author agreed, and I'm quite pleased with the two resulting articles I created. In 3.5 hours, which she's okay with (not thrilled, but loves the results, so okay). I'm pleased enough that I'd like to put them in my portfolio. My dilemma is this: how do I approach the author to ask/inform her? Permission to use it in my portfolio isn't the sticky part - it's putting it in the WRITING samples, as opposed to editing samples - that I'm angsting over.

This was published under her byline, raising the ghostwriting question...but mostly I just feel very very awkward about how to politely address having crossed the line between editing and rewriting.

Has anyone else experienced this? Any suggestions?

This is cross-posted to copy_editors and cranky_editors as well.

Freelance Workshop in SF Bay Area

Hi all,

If anyone is in the San Francisco Bay Area and interested in taking a class on the business and craft of freelance writing, here's an opportunity. I'll be one of the panelists:

What: California Writers Club Freelance Writing Workshop
When: Saturday, March 15 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Belmont Public Library

I'll be leading the morning discussion of how to treat your freelance work as a business (and I'm going to try to throw in some things on staying serene while growing your business). We'll be talking about how to query, how to write a biz plan, etc.

In the afternoon, freelancer Martin Cheek will lead discussion of how to hone your craft as a freelance writer--the different skills you need, etc.

If you decide to come, let me know. I wanna meet you!

Where I'm spending my energy

Hi all,

I said I was going to post here regularly. Instead, I've started a blog for freelancers and self-employed people of all types:

Serenity for the Self-Employed

Please check it out and let me know what you think!

I am not a lawyer, but...

If anyone's been following the Authors Guild class-action lawsuit against publishers, you may already know that a federal appeals court made an important ruling on it yesterday. I didn't until Erik Sherman pointed it out. Let me see if I can use my reporter training to boil this down: The authors were annoyed that publishers put their work online (or in databases like Lexis) without paying for electronic copyright. They sued. They reached a settlement, but some of them objected, so the publishers appealed to Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appeals court found that the local court doesn't have jurisdiction over the vast majority of the works at issue, because almost none of them registered for an official copyright. Despite how this sounds, it's not a question of re-filing in the right venue, as far as I can tell; the appeals court believes they simply don't have a case under the law. Basically, it said that if you don't copyright something, you can't sue when your unregistered copyright is infringed. (This ruling can be overturned by a full panel of the court, and technically only applies to federal lawsuits filed in NY, VT and CT. So they can still bring personal-injury cases in state court, although who knows if the plaintiffs have the energy for more litigation.)

Regardless of my personal opinion on this -- and believe me, I have one -- the lesson is clear: If you value it enough to consider suing over copyright infringement, register the copyright. (You're still in the clear over breach of contract lawsuits.) I don't really worry about re-selling electronic rights, but if you do or think you might in the future, look through your contracts for electronic-rights information too.

Checking in

This group has been pretty quiet lately. I think I'm going to make an effort to post every day to get some discussion going or at least provide some interesting info.

Today, I want to report back on two new-to-me blogs that are fun to read and helpful:

Screw You! blog
This blog is written by an irreverent freelancer. She calls out her clients on their bad behavior and she even attaches her real name to it. She's braver (and perhaps more fool-hardy) than I.

Writer Beward Blog
A good source of info about writers scams and such.

The good thing about both of these is that they are a reality check on the life of a freelancer.

You're fired!

I'm all about firing nuisance clients lately. I've been putting a lot of thought into the kind of writer's life I'd like to have, and it does NOT involve being at the beck and call of people who can't pay my whole rate, are assholes, don't challenge me, or behave shadily. I'm of the firm belief that firing a problem client opens up space in your life for something better...at least that's how it's worked for me thus far.

Anyway, today's blog post on The Renegade Writer Blog speaks to exactly those issues. Enjoy!

Writing business class

In case anyone's checking in on this lovely post-Labor Day day, I thought I'd pass along a resource that was really useful for me as I started freelancing two years ago:

Erik Sherman's Planning Your Writing Business class.

He's offering it again, as you can see. Man, did it help me get a grip of how much time I really need to be spending on work versus marketing, and what my bottom-line per-hour rate needed to be. I highly recommend it. And since it's an online class, you can live anywhere.

Happy reporting!

Tags:

For those of you considering joining professional organizations, take this into account:

The head of the Society for Professional Journalists' freelance committee just resigned, citing SPJ's support of publishers and against freelancers looking to defend their contracts. Or at least that's one perspective.

To get a broader look at the issues at stake here, consider reading Erik Sherman's blog on the subject.

This will be especially interesting, I imagine, for the legal writers among us.

What do you think?

A good reminder

In case any of you are struggling with a client's unreasonable demands, check out this little word of encouragement from writer Erik Sherman:

Never Walk Away From a Good Fight

Creativity and business acumen

Hi all,

This is something I've been thinking about lately. Just now, I came from a meeting I have monthly with two other self-employed people to help me hammer out my budget and help me work on increasing my income. It's incredibly helpful to me and, among other things, reminds me that I'm doing pretty well. We spent a while trying to figure out how I could take $100 out of my spending plan or earn an extra $100.

We figured out what my priorities are (I'd rather find an extra $100 than cut back on anything I'm spending) and found ways to increase my income (do an extra two video reviews that pay me $50 each). And I walked home thinking again about how much more aware I am now, as a freelancer, that my job is creative. At the same time, I'm also very aware that my job is a job--that a big part of what I do is figure out how to have the money I need for the things I value.

I actually feel passionate about both of these things--about figuring out a business model that will work for me (that's why I'm focusing on only querying higher-paying markets and on dropping my lower-paying ones), and about writing creative, fun, interesting and nurturing things.

I realize, however, that most creative people think of their work as their passion and don't prioritize making money. I have a lot of freelance friends for whom making money is not nearly as important as having time for creative writing, etc. I see how tortured they are by having to choose between work they love that pays little or nothing at all (fiction writing is notorious for being difficult to make a living off of) and doing work that sucks the life out of them in order to pay their bills.

But I wonder what you guys think: For you, does it feel like prioritizing one over the other? Do you have both? Do you think you can have both? How does earning money change the kind of work you do?