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I Hired a Freelance Editor for My Blog (2017) (mtlynch.io)
181 points by quickthrower2 on Dec 1, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 42 comments

I also hired an editor to look at my essays for a prestigious scholarship. Although the application ultimately was unsuccessful, I can say without a doubt that it is some of the strongest writing I've ever put together.

My editor did exactly what Samantha asked of Michael: asked me why, over and over again. Why I am I telling this story? Why should anyone else care? Why should they read past the first paragraph? Why is this sidebar here?

I always thought editors as being like the New Yorker's Comma Queen, focused on sharpening syntax. But while that is certainly part of their purview, they are masters at crafting compelling stories and tailoring the facts of the matter to the intended audience.

I'd like to do more blogging myself, sometimes, but I feel like I don't have much to talk about, AND a crippling sense of impostor syndrome; if confronted with questions like "why", I'd start to seriously doubt myself.

I mean I've got plenty to talk about but I can't get consistent. For now I'll stick to shitposting on HN I guess.

I tried blogging once. Also didn't have enough ideas for content and no compelling theme, to boot. Used to have imposter syndrome bad, but at some point I just stopped caring about it.

What I DID do was to write things down. Any time I discovered a new thing (risk managment, recovery-oriented computing, various consulting tips/tricks/and so on) I wrote down what I wanted to remember. But I wrote that down on my web site, in HTML. Sometimes when I procrastinate I look to improve the layout, language or content.

There's not a huge amount of content there (maybe 20 posts?), but it seems to interest others so that's ok I guess. I'm happy with my blogging-but-not-blogging thing. It scratches the itch without consuming me, my time, and I don't need an editor.

That said there's a lot of other stuff on there that floats my boat, so there's that work/play variety which floats my boat.


I did something similar, back in the day. I setup debian-administration.org at least partly to document things I'd learned, tried, or discovered.

It was a useful resource for a few years, but it never really took off and I had the pain of dealing with spam and user-support. So now the site is read-only archive-only, and offline.

But it was a good experience. Forcing myself to document things "nicely" really helped make sure I learned things and didn't need to refer back to my own notes in the future.

A quotation from somebody--the book I got it from is upstairs, but somebody's working in that room:

"Who is entitled to write his memoirs? Everyone. Because no one is required to read them."

I find that this was Alexander Herzen in Pole Star: Simon Leys quotes him in an essay collected in The Hall of Uselessness.

But if you have grandchildren ... they'll probably read them one day :-)

One thing I might suggest is to simply write for yourself and not worry about engagement. I don't have any trackers on my blog because I really don't care if anyone will reads my work since I'm writing for an audience of one. Obviously, many of those posts aren't meaty enough to hire an editor for, but I've found that simply writing creates knock-on effects I wouldn't have expected.

In general, I find that there's way too much obsession with engagement/monetization/etc. Of course, it helps if you already have a well-paying job. Nonetheless, most people don't expect to monetize their hobbies but somehow, at least in the context of somewhere like HN, a lot of people seem to expect that any personal project has to be a side hustle.

As to other comments about "having something to say," I'd just observe that many of the earliest blogs and proto-blogs (think Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manner column in Byte) were basically just journals. Not everything has to be great thought.

Perhaps you found your blog. Imposter syndrome blogs are rare and you can speak from the heart.

My understanding is that a lot of the great books we know are heavily influenced by unknown editors who can easily be considered coauthors.

Author here! Happy to answer any questions about this post.

I still work with Samantha about once per year for a tune-up. Coincidentally, she edited the article I'm planning to publish later this week.

Trivia: I submitted this article to HN when I originally wrote it[0], but I was still pretty new to this community and didn't realize how clickbaity the original title came across. I changed the title a year later and resubmitted,[1] but it didn't get any traction then either, so I figured it wasn't up HN's alley. I just changed the title this weekend because I realized it was doing well in search queries for the term "blog editor,"[2] and I wanted to make it obvious that the post explained how to repeat my process, so I guess the new title made a difference.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14847499

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17724508

[2] https://twitter.com/deliberatecoder/status/13337813383405936...

I just spoke to Samantha, and I learned that she recently took accepted a full-time position and is unfortunately no longer taking on editing clients.

I can heartily recommend Eleanor Ivory Weber, she was the copy editor of my book ‘Copy This Book’ and I was super impressed (see also my comment below) https://independent.academia.edu/eleanorweber

Hi @mtlynch, can you please share Samantha's profile/resume, since you already found a good editor might as well hire her.

Sure, she has an About page on her website that describes her background and the types of work she specializes in:


looks like she is at $95 ~ $200/h now, good for her.

Thanks. I posted simply because I saw your link in another thread and I really wanted to see a lot more discussion of it :-), as I thought it was a really neat idea that most people would miss. (I have!)

Cool, thank you for sharing it! It was a nice surprise seeing it pop up on the front page three years later.


How many hours does Samantha work for you on a monthly basis, and how often do you publish?

I aim for about 10 full-length blog posts per year, but I publish other things like book summaries and monthly retrospectives that are less polished.

I work with Samantha on about one article per year, and it takes her 1-2 hours to edit it. She offers different levels of rigor depending on what the client wants. I'm generally interested in high-level feedback and anti-patterns in my writing that she can warn me about.

> When I publish a blog post and it flops, I don’t get much feedback about why it was unsuccessful. To date, none of my readers have written to say, “Hey, you had great ideas in that post, but I never read them because your repetitive sentence structure lost my attention, and I closed the tab.” An editor actually can give me that kind of feedback.

danluu also hired an editor and says something similar aboout feedback, per this https://danluu.com/p95-skill/

Interesting piece on Overwatch. Never expected to see a danluu and Overwatch crossover. I am an ex-top 500 player in Overwatch. When I think back on it to become really really good (top 500 good) you need to just grind it out and win more than 50% of your games. Then, in the long run (I played thousands of games) you will become the best. You just have to improve and keep grinding. Every game should learn you a new lesson which you should apply to your next one. That's how I became top 500 :)

Which (to me) raises the question: did you get a top 500 spot for being that good, or for being that persistent?

I mean I've casually played some CoD Mobile, it's crappy but I enjoy it well enough. Did some ranked games, and within just ten or so matches the blurb came up saying I "beat" 70% of the players. I'm fairly sure that just means there's a very long tail of players who haven't played as much. I'm sure I could get top 10 or even 1% if I just play more often, moreso than if I get good at the game (because I like to think I'm very middle of the road, and / or that other players are bad because they're 8 years old).

Not parent, but I used to be in that top for counter strike, once you reach it you’re surrounded with extremely talented player and it’s not just about grinding anymore. There’s something about pure skill that makes people much much better than anyone else. You don’t just grind but you watch videos, you practice aiming, you train with your team, you invent new strategies, you make sure you have good chemistry and you don’t bring everyone down if your team starts losing, etc.

I don't think it's as easy as "just grind" to become the best. You also need to approach it with deliberation (see deliberate practice).

The hint is your words "have to improve". Simply grinding doesn't mean you'll automatically improve, or improve fast enough to ever reach the top. You need something more.

I think as long as you have the desire to win, you will naturally focus on improving. You might have plateaus and have to refocus sometimes, but in general I think more hours > more deliberation.

When you are playing games at very high volumes then you also tend to improve rapidly, since even in the 95th-99th percentiles there are usually dumb mistakes that cost you the game.

There are communities for novel writing and poetry which gives you maybe half the benefits of a professional editor for free. However, I don't know any for technical blogs.

Last week a new community popped up here on HN with the story of how the creator made 5.000$ for the first month, it seemed most users where happy about it and had some nice feedback. I wouldn't pay for it but the first 100 spots were free to attract good people and solve the 2-sided marketplace egg and chicken problem.

hn thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25219924

I would try this

in particular, would be interesting to match with bloggers who have similar release cadence and have had similar success

the goal would be to vet ideas and then do a review pass

> Part of your proofreading process should also be reading your posts aloud. My editor encouraged me to do this, and I was amazed at how effectively it catches careless errors and unnatural wording.

A related writing hack for mac OS users, is to use the built-in text-to-speech tools Accessibility > Speech and make the computer read your drafts to you.

See info for how to setup a keyboard shortcut here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mApa60zJA8rgEm6T6GF0yIem...

Is TTS actually useful for editing writing? I haven't tried TTS on my mac in years but my experience with TTS is it's very utilitarian. It will certainly speak the words you input but the best use of reading your own writing aloud is to get a feel for how the text sounds in a natural human speaking voice. Because if it sounds good in a speaking voice, it will sound good and feel correctly paced and worded to a reader.

TTS doesn't interpret pacing and anticipate the way a thoughtful human reader would read text aloud. Which defeats much of the purpose of reading your own text aloud. But TTS should help you find grammar mistakes, typos and missing words.

Windows also has TTS built-in; see https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/hear-text-read-a....

Else, you can (I guess?) copy / paste it into Google Translate as well.

For anyone not using Mac's, there's a few text-to-speech offerings online if you are ok with the privacy implications of sending that data to a 3rd party. Use it a lot for public conversational threads and mailing lists that I am expected to read but have low signal to noise ratios.

I'm not sure about what offline alternatives exist.

I saw someone claim that changing the font to Comic Sans made her see the text freshly and catch many problems.

Agree, by far the most praised addition to Typely (https://editor.typely.com)

It's a funny coincidence, but I also happened to hire Samantha at around the same time (her rates have gone way up since then!) and she was just a dream to work with. I learned so much about writing from her and worked with her until I started dating the former senior editor of The Walrus, which is like Canada's New Yorker.

If you have the budget, she'll build up a style guide with you that is tuned to your little specific preferences. Mostly little Canadianisms, decisions on when to hyphenate, or points about tone.

It was an absolute dream to work with her.

Interesting! Makes me think that I’ve always wanted to hire an accent coach or somebody would could look at videos if me and tell me what I don’t pronounce correctly. Maybe I should do it...

I keep 'dreaming' of hiring someone to make me 'good on video', really mostly for fun, but maybe to make some good coding videos. I haven't got around to it yet.

I am also looking for an editor, in case you have recommendations in addition to the one in the article!

Eleanor Ivory Weber copy edited my book ‘Copy This Book’ and I was super impressed. A good copy editor understands your style & then makes it so much more tight & consistent… Yet then you read it and it still feels like you! There’s an e-mail link on her academia profile: https://independent.academia.edu/eleanorweber

That siacoin post is great! I definitely will hire an editor if I start blogging.

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