by Kaaren Sutcliffe AE

From a mentee — I sought mentorship in developmental and structural editing because, although I had experience in copyediting and proofreading, I needed to develop the skills and confidence to zoom out to see the larger picture of writing. 

As my mentor and I were in different states, we communicated via email and several long phone conversations. We quickly developed a rapport and our discussions were productive and enjoyable. 

To get me going, my mentor recommended an excellent reference book, Developmental editing by Scott Norton. For practice material, I chose a chapter from a science-writing anthology with a complex structure and many interconnected variables. The article documents the author’s quest to find out what makes cane toads tick and how these findings could be used to halt their continued invasion of northern Australia. I summarised the contents and ideas paragraph by paragraph, including in flow charts, which formed the basis of a wider analysis of the structure and techniques used by the author. 

As a follow-up exercise, my mentor provided me with a chapter outline and several draft chapters of a non-fiction manuscript. I posted questions and comments on the text and suggested a change to the order of chapters. I drafted a manuscript appraisal analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript, as well as providing suggestions and encouragement to the author. In both exercises I applied some concepts from Norton’s book. My mentor responded with constructive comments and suggestions, and encouragement. She was flexible and open to discussing other topics, such as advice on freelancing and how to deal with suspected plagiarism.

Since then, I have been able to apply the skills learnt in helping a young author structure his book on wildlife, editing a women’s health book with major structural issues, and appraising a manuscript on archaeological expeditions. While this aspect of editing will take more practice to master, the mentorship provided me with valuable skills and more confidence to take on any work requiring developmental or structural editing.

From a mentor — it was a pleasure to work with this mentee. The analysis of the complex pieces was fascinating, and I also learned from the application of the principles in Scott Norton’s text. The mentee grasped the concepts quickly, and it is wonderful to hear she is being engaged to work on other complex non-fiction texts. 

From the Co-Chairs IPEd Mentoring Program — this is the second in what we hope will be a series of case studies. The studies will be published anonymously, but if anyone wishes to contact the mentee or mentor for further information, please email us and we’ll pass on your request. 

Elizabeth Manning Murphy, DE — emmurphy.words@gmail.com

Ted Briggs, AE — tedbriggs@grapevine.com.au 

Case study coordinated by Kaaren Sutcliffe AE, ACT Area Mentoring Coordinator, from contributions by the participants