The Black Cat monthly round-up: December 2020

This is the third December for Black Cat Editorial Services and the business continues to grow. That feels like a huge achievement given the horrible year we have all had, plus the bonus terribles that were allotted to me and my family: my mum was diagnosed with cancer, my sister had to cope with and recover from COVID-19 alone, and my dog died. As far as I am concerned, most of 2020 can get in the bin.

It’s not all bad, though. I checked my project-tracking spreadsheet, as is now traditional for these end-of-year blog posts, and it tells me that my 2020 projects have a combined word count of 3,355,011 – about 300,000 more than 2019, despite the COVID-related work slump mid-year. It was a real relief to see my publisher work return, and I am very grateful to my wonderful indie clients who kept me busy during the dark times.

Despite the circumstances, I still managed to get some good things out of this year. I wrote two book reviews for the CIEP (on Dennis Baron’s What’s Your Pronoun and Jacqueline D. Lipton’s Law and Authors: A legal handbook for writers); attended the CIEP’s online conference; completed two courses (Copyright for Editorial Professionals and How to Write the Perfect Editorial Report); and became a tutor for the CIEP’s Proofreading Headway and Progress courses.

I started working as a tutor in August and it has been a steep learning curve – I’m very grateful to have had the brilliant Annie Jackson to hold my hand through it. I can’t tell you how strange it feels to have my name in the CIEP’s tutor list alongside some of the people I have looked up to since I began my training and some of the people who tutored me. I can only hope that my students will get as much from my help and advice as I did from my tutors and my mentor, the wonderful Margaret Aherne.

What I’ve been working on

I scheduled in a Christmas break this year – I needed some downtime – but I still managed to complete three more projects before calling it for the year. I started December with the proofread of a dark and fantastical short-story collection and then moved on to the copy-edit of the second instalment of an epic fantasy series (I worked on the first instalment and I’m getting a bit attached to the characters already). My last project of the year was the copy-edit of a fantasy/horror novel with a unique premise and intriguing conclusion.

What I read for fun

I couldn’t stop myself – I had to read the rest of the available Murderbot books. I read the novella, Exit Strategy, and the full-length novel, Network Effect, in two sittings – and now I must wait until April for the next instalment. Having run out of Murderbot material, I turned to Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw. Like the first book, Strange Practice, it is an enjoyable and monster-filled novel. I wrapped up the month with Genevieve Cogman’s The Masked City, another enjoyable adventure with familiar characters.

Looking ahead

I will be returning to work next week, so I will make the most of the next few days of doing very little. Usually I say something like ‘Here’s to a happy and successful new year for us all’ at this point – it feels like a lot to wish for, but I do hope it comes true.

The Black Cat monthly round-up: December 2019

Black Cat Editorial Services_This is the second December for Black Cat Editorial Services and the business continues to go from strength to strength. My project-tracking spreadsheet tells me that 2019’s projects had a combined word count of 3,066,923. That’s nearly a million words up on 2018, which seems incredible and slightly ridiculous.

It has been quite a year – much of it hard work and some of it tiring and frustrating. But there have been many highlights. In September, I completed the Society for Editors and Proofreaders’ Introduction to Fiction Editing course. In August, I was the guest on the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Twitter chat (#IndieAuthorChat). In July, I became an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP – something I had been working towards for four years. In June, I approved a typeset version of my book review for the SfEP’s Editing Matters magazine. In March, I attended the fiction editors’ mini-conference in London, and a few days later I went to the London Book Fair. And in February, I led a continuing professional development session for the West Surrey and North Hampshire local SfEP group.

I am fortunate to have many wonderful colleagues, clients and friends, and I am very grateful for all of your support.

What I’ve been working on

I completed two fiction proofreads in December – one a split narrative, time-jumping, mystery thriller, and one a work of gentle, humorous commercial fiction about a village taking on a Trump-like figure. I’m currently in the middle of a copy-edit of a satirical crime novel – it’s kept me nicely busy over the festive period.

What I read for fun

So, I finally ran out of episodes of BuzzFeed Unsolved and returned to reading (after a one-day binge of The Witcher). The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern is amazing. Its delicately woven narrative threads, beautiful imagery, and charming characters really made it a wonderful read. I spent most of Boxing Day reading A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. The world-building is pretty darn good, and I appreciate a secondary protagonist who has many, many shades of grey.

Looking ahead

I’m planning to attend the SfEP (soon to be the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading) conference, and I aim to be back at the London Book Fair. In the short term, I’m looking forward to the first lunch meeting of the year with the West Surrey and North Hampshire local group, where we will be talking about our goals for 2020.

Here’s to a happy and successful new year for us all.

The Black Cat monthly round-up: December 2018

Black Cat Editorial Services_It’s the end of December, and it’s the end of 2018. I keep a spreadsheet of all my projects, helping me to keep track of word counts and how long each project took. That spreadsheet tells me I edited a staggering 2,092,001 words this year – that feels like reason enough for a bit of time off before getting back into the swing of things in January.

What I’ve been working on

I thought it might be a quiet month in terms of work, what with all the festivities, but I’ve been kept busy with two sizeable fiction proofreads. The first was reminiscent of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, if Alice had been a belligerent middle-aged man. The second was the story of an unhappy Victorian marriage – this was unusual in that it used (with good effect) extracts from diaries, letters and newspapers to tell the story.

What I read for fun

I got through four books in December – it’s a great month for going to bed early but staying up late to read. Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death, by M. B. Vincent, was a perfect cosy read. It made me laugh out loud, it was easy to read (I mean that in a good way), there were the usual comforting clichés, and it had likeable central characters.

I followed Jess Castle with Spellslinger. Sebastien de Castell has written an engaging narrator in Kellan, but Reichis, the foul-mouthed squirrel cat, is the stand-out character for me. Shadowblack, the next in the series, is already in my TBR pile.

Father Christmas gave me a copy of The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine by Thomas Morris. It’s billed as ‘Horrible Histories for adults’ and I can understand the comparison. As you can probably imagine, there are quite a few stories of unfortunate souls who have stuck things in places they shouldn’t have. The index is a thing of beauty, by the way. I recommend checking it out.

My last read of December was Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – I read the whole book in one day, so I think we can say I enjoyed it, despite the author’s tendency to describe dresses in great detail. I wasn’t even particularly annoyed by the love triangle.

Looking ahead

Goodbye to 2018. One of my first events in the new year will be lunch with the West Surrey and North Hampshire SfEP local group. I’m very much looking forward to a catch-up with my local edibuddies.

Here’s to a happy and successful new year for us all.