The Joy of Editing

I have spent a little bit of time thinking about some editing projects I have worked on and the differences of approach and thought it would be good to add a few words about the joy of editing. It seems that some people view editing as something only bad writers need to do because it is only they who make mistakes in their spelling, grammar of other parts of their text. Truth is editing is such an essential part of the writing process that I should not need to write this piece, yet I do because so few writers spend any time editing their contributions.
The Book Editor
editing by
I have over the last couple of years edited four books and have enjoyed editing each of them, although each has provided very different challenges. The opening paragraph and page are perhaps the toughest of challenges and I have found in editing books in that it is important to both know what is in the mind of the writer and what is the most powerful element the story is telling because the opening sentence must be very powerful, it must draw in the reader then increase in power as they read the opening paragraphs and demand they stay and feel the need to buy the book, the opening should share the same sense of excitement, suspense, intrigue, or mystery as exists in the remainder of the work and this is as true of a factual book as it is for fiction.
As the editor it should be obvious that you are in a very privileged position, because you are the first person other than the author to have read the piece and your opinion should help the writer hone their skills in the future, especially if they are a new author trying to get published for the very first time.
Playing with sentences can be one of the ways that you can help the writer succeed, you are looking to turn the ordinary into something special, like a movement from Swan Lake, which makes each sentence special, twisting it through the story providing the thread for the reader to follow. This part of the craft can be special, can empower the work which should be better of for the editing process.
The Magazine Editor
Out comes the Red Pen by
The role of an editor in a magazine differs greatly to that of a book editor, here many articles will have been submitted and these may all relate to the theme selected for this edition. Even where there is a feature article around which other supplementary material is added it does do mean that central piece isn’t going to visit the chopping block at some point before publication, particularly when space is an issue, however it is not the editor who ultimately decides what stays and what goes, that decision is frequently the Publisher’s to make because they control the layout and the amount of room available (after the advertising space has been sold and it squeezes the editorial space), this though is the challenge of magazines and the one I edited was not like some where the first article appears on page 75.
With magazines it is not unknown for an editor to completely rewrite a contributor’s piece in order to make it fit in with the theme presented that month, or perhaps merge the contributions of three or four writiers. With the articles I edited I tried wherever possible to follow the flow and logic of the original writer’s submission, yet at the same time make the sentences tell the story, lengthening or shortening as necessary and ensuring that supporting material was included as appropriate.
Editing Blog Posts
One of the greatest challenges for the on-line writer is the temptation for early publication, it is somewhat like the inexperienced sexual partner, the blog writer must learn to wait before publishing. The editing stage is one of the most vital there is and each writer needs to develop a check-list of things to be checked before they press the publish button.
I approach each editing action as a joyful task to be undertaken, not a chore, each step is an opportunity to improve your piece, make sure the sentences make sense, make sure it gives the right impression, this should in part be a time when you look at it from the reader’s perspective, will they see it as you do? If not then you need to change something, in truth most blog posts published today need improving, it isn’t a case of the ideas being wrong the problems with blogs is that they are poorly edited. I know the innate desire to publish at all cost, I have been driven by that need but regretted it when looking at the piece tomorrow which is the time when all the errors stand out and corrections afterwards don’t help because the majority of readers look at the post within the first 24 hours of publication.
Editing should be approached as a joyous task, not simply a chore. Sometimes the best rhetorical arguments are only possible through the power of editing.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.