A new string to my bow: artwork and illustrations

It will be twenty years this June since I graduated from Loughborough University in Fine Art (Painting). I had spent the previous four years happily creating artworks, but I knew (or thought I knew) that I didn’t want a career as an artist. I didn’t relish the idea of having to draw or paint whatever the client wanted, no matter how unappealing. However, it’s with a big smile on my face that I now announce that I’ve recently completed my first paid-for artworks in over twenty years!

When I was nineteen, I was paid to do an oil painting for my dad’s workplace when they moved into new premises. It was a 6′ x 2′ depiction of silhouettes related to the film industry, black against a dramatically lit, colourful background. I have only the vaguest memory of it, and I’m pretty sure that if I ever saw it again, I’d cringe and notice all kinds of horrible faults. I recently learned that it’s still there, in the foyer, and I must admit, I’m a little bit proud that someone liked it enough to keep it there instead of commissioning something better and gleefully burning it.

I like to think my work has improved a tiny bit in the last twenty years, even though I’ve gone through long stretches without practice. I was delighted when an author whose work I edited commissioned me to do some artwork for him. First came a family tree. Then he asked me to do a piece for the cover. It didn’t end up on the cover because – well, it wasn’t in keeping with the theme of the book. An impressionistic view of three figures floating down a river in a canoe was the author’s vision, but at the same time it didn’t reflect the genre. Nevertheless, I was really glad to do this piece because it challenged me in different ways. It wasn’t a topic I’d have chosen – I know nothing about canoes and have no experience of the landscapes or geography that feature in the book – but it’s good to broaden your horizons and try new things.

I also discovered, right from square one with the family tree, that I don’t mind being told what to do nearly as much as I thought I would. Far from feeling threatened or insulted by suggestions that I change aspects of my work, I enjoyed getting feedback and building up a clearer picture of the client’s vision. At first it was a little embarrassing sending sketches I knew to be rough or substandard, but it was exciting to see the responses they generated and the ideas that sprang out of them. ‘Try bringing the viewpoint down a bit’ or ‘the angle to the left’, the client would suggest, or ‘can we make this a bit bigger?’ I’d make sure that we nailed the composition before I got stuck into colours and brushstrokes and texture, and I had a lot of fun with the process. Here is the result:

impressionistic painting of three figures in a canoe paddling down a river with mountains in the distance

To my delight, the author was pleased enough with my work to commission another painting for their novella, even though the previous one didn’t end up on the cover. This took me to another level in terms of research – Canadian trains of the 1980s definitely aren’t one of my specialist areas. I even emailed a train buff whose site I found online! (Thank you, John MacDonald of, by the way, for your useful technical input and for the use of some of your pictures as reference material!)

It’s amazing how different railway stations are in different countries. As a Brit, I’ve very rarely seen a platform without a good drop off the edge to the line, and we tend to either have a brick station building or nothing – no wooden or corrugated iron huts here, as far as I know. Here is the fruit of my research:

painting of man running after retreating train in the distance in a mountainous landscape

I’m pleased with the way this has gone, and I’m learning new things about my tools of the trade all the time. Both of these were done on ProCreate Pocket for iPhone, and I’m hoping to progress to the full version on an iPad soon, so watch this space!

If you have ever thought that you’d like to have someone illustrate either your book cover or just a scene from your book or short story, please get in touch – I’ve discovered that I love working on commissions!


Looking back: the first year!

I did it! I survived my first year as a freelancer! I’ve been editing and proofreading for longer than that, but always as an employee, so the venture into self-employment was new to me. And I have to say that it … didn’t go as I expected. Out of all the challenges I expected to face, a global pandemic was not on my radar. I have been lucky to work from home and – so far – stay healthy. And in honour of the occasion, I’ve treated myself to some number-crunching …

In the past year, I have edited and proofread 2,794,378 words. I’ve undertaken 65 jobs across 24 different clients, 14 of whom have come back for repeat work. My clients were …

bar graph showing individuals (19), agencies (3), publishers (1) and businesses (1)

… 19 individuals, 3 agencies, 1 publisher and 1 business.

My jobs were …

Pie chart showing copyediting (52%), proofreading (43%) and dev editing (5%)

… 52% copyediting, 43% proofreading and 5% developmental editing …

… but my income came from …

Pie chart showing copyediting (72%), proofreading (23%), dev editing (4%) and critique (1%)

… 72% copyediting, 23% proofreading, 4% dev editing and 1% critique.

And out of the time I spent working …

Pie chart showing editing and proofreading (73%) and other (27%)

… 73% was spent actually editing and proofreading. The other 27% was spent on non-billable work, which included looking for work, marketing and promotion, networking with authors and fellow editors, research and fact-checking, updating my website, accounting, IT-related admin, formatting, training and other professional development, correspondence with clients and potential clients, and producing quotes and samples. I’m sure there’s more that I’ve forgotten!

So what has this year brought for me? I managed to keep one of my resolutions, which was to undertake some developmental editing training and secure some clients in that area. I took Sophie Playle’s/Liminal Pages’ celebrated course in Developmental Editing: Fiction Theory, which was incredibly useful and a lot of fun! I’m looking forward to expanding this area of my practice in 2021, especially in the areas of fantasy, urban fantasy, sci fi, horror, and romance.

Things also took an unexpected turn when a client asked me whether I’d consider doing an illustration and cover design for their book. I originally trained in art and have continued to dabble as a hobby over the last twenty years – as you can see here – but illustration is a different skill! I was open about my lack of experience, but they decided to hire me anyway, and I had great fun working on an illustrated family tree to add to their book. I’m now working on the cover, which I’m incredibly excited about and very grateful to my lovely client for giving me this opportunity!

I’m ending this year feeling both very lucky and very sad on behalf of those who have been hit harder by Covid-19 than I have. I’m grateful to be able to continue working and providing for myself and my family. Considering how many people aren’t in such a fortunate position this year through no fault of their own, though, it doesn’t feel right to be too celebratory. I hope 2021 brings better luck to everyone.


SfEP becomes the CIEP!

Today the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) becomes the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP)!

I’m excited about this change. The SfEP was already highly regarded, but as the CIEP it should wield even more clout as the national professional body for editors and proofreaders. Since I joined in October 2015, I’ve been impressed by the resources and support available. The team behind the change has worked really hard to make this happen, so congratulations to them!

I am proud to be a professional member, and I hope to upgrade to Advanced Professional Member later this year – fingers crossed!

CIEP logo
Copyediting Uncategorized

A dispatch from the editing coalface

a breakwater stretching out into the sea at sunset
I went away to the Norfolk coast for a few days. I set a tea-towel on fire and my mum got bitten by a dog. A good time was had by all.


I admit, I struggle to find a balance between working and blogging about work. The more work I do, the less time I have to blog! It’s time for me to redress that balance.

I haven’t posted news about myself for a while. You’ve had advice on getting your ebook ready for self-publishing, choosing an editor, working with an editor … you’ve even heard about what searches I’ve been doing. I’m currently working on a mammoth post, complete with screenshots, on how to use Word’s ‘styles’ function. But in the meantime, I’ve been up to a lot of other things …

Editing and proofreading, of course! Over the last few months I’ve been busy working on some history and sociology non-fiction titles, a dissertation, and a couple of charming novels – a comedy and a children’s fantasy book.

Training and continuing professional development. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) ‘Introduction to Fiction Editing’ course is incredibly wide-ranging and useful. I’m seriously considering branching out into developmental editing. As this would be a new venture for me, I’d offer a good discount for my first couple of clients, so if you’re interested in ‘big picture’ structural/developmental editing for your novel, now would be a great time to get in touch with me! 

Feeling like a schoolgirl again. I took the SfEP’s Basic Editorial Test, and the pressure was on, because despite the ‘Basic’ designation it was reputed to be pretty stringent, not to mention the fact that it was timed and you can make a maximum of two attempts to pass. If you fail on the second try, you’re doomed! After a couple of weeks of intense revision, I was relieved and delighted to get a mark of 95%.

Attending writerly things. Events, groups, call them what you will. The Leicester Writers Meet-Up is always friendly and welcoming, and on Tuesday I was at the Leicester Book Prize announcement where Rod Duncan’s The Queen of All Crows was revealed as the winner. I’ve also been to the SfEP East Midlands meet-up for the first time, connecting with editorial colleagues from all over the region.

Doing other writerly-worky stuff. Updating the Help For Writers website and blog. Delivering ebooks to online stores. Entering book metadata here, there and everywhere. Updating my directory entries. Creating a new Facebook page. Blowing my own trumpet.

Having a personal life. I moved house. My car passed its MOT. My child learned to jump. I went to the coast for a few days. I dusted off my bike after six years and attached a sprog-trailer to it. I had a good long sleep … no, wait. That didn’t happen. I have, however, eaten cake and drunk coffee. Sometimes even while working.

Because it’s not said often enough – and for many people it’s not true, anyway – I feel the need to shout from the rooftops … I love my job! I get to read lots of interesting things, both fact and fiction; I get to liaise with nice people who appreciate what I do; I learn a lot from the books I work on and the courses I take; even the aspects of the job I enjoy less, like marketing and promotion, provide variety and challenges which encourage me to develop in new and unexpected ways. I can’t wait to find out what the future will bring!