Chris O’Toole took on the Sisyphean task of: 1) proofreading; 2) providing a general critique: and 3) giving insight on whether and how to move forward on my draft play and associated essay. Mr. O’Toole use the yellow highlighter feature in Word to show his proofreading suggestions. I am still finding grammatical and word choice errors. This may well be because—due to my limited eye-sight— I didn’t see all his yellow highlights in making my corrections. He provided a general, dip-lomatic, thoughtful critique of the play’s subject matter; use of metaphors, poetry, and language; and connection with a reader or an audience.
In making and evaluating my decision to hire an editor in general and Mr. O’Toole specifically, I looked at five factors: 1) experience and expertise; 2) cost; 3) turn-around time; 4) interactions; and 5) quality of work. Regarding the first, while I do not know Mr. Toole’s experience with plays, his website clearly indicates significant experience in editing other forms of professional writing. I believe the quality of editors’ websites and offers of services is a good indicator of their knowledge of and skill in teaching clients like me how to connect with their readers and audiences. Regarding cost, other editors I consulted charged on an hourly or a per page basis while Mr. Toole, in this first editing interaction, offered a very reasonable flat fee. There are pluses and minuses with each ap-proach. A flat fee was best for me for the initial editing of a draft play. The third factor is crucial for most authors working on deadlines. Mr. O’Toole sent me his edits and critique within two weeks. A second editor I contacted told me she could not get to my draft until January. Fourth, ed-iting is a collaborative enterprise: an editor needs to know the writer’s audience, intent, focus, and voice to help that author create his or her best work. Mr. O’Toole gave me feedback and questions on the writing sample I originally sent him. He sent me a follow-up email—with a targeted ques-tion--while editing my manuscript.
Overall, I am happy with the initial editing efforts Mr. O’Toole gave me: professional; cost-effective; timely; and interactive. I am still rolling around the four page, shiny, rock critique he also gave me: gold or dross; foundational, aspirational, or weighing down: moving the draft higher or back into an inky sea? Whatever it ultimately is, he initiated a thought provoking internal and external conversation for/with a novice playwright just as my response here illustrates the meta-phorical challenges Mr. O’Toole confronted in critiquing and advising me on my writing.