By: Marilyn L. Davis
“Everyone thinks alchemy is dead, but alchemists live among us—they are called editors: adept in the art of transformation, they practice arcane methods of selection, deletion, and synthesis to take what is base and produce gold.”― Anthony Marais
I feel privileged to edit the submissions at Two Drops of Ink and From Addict 2 Advocate. Why? Because as Anthony Marais says, I use my skills to flesh out the bones of a post and transform it into the best writing I can. By shifting paragraphs, making passive sentence active, or other tweaks, the writer presents well and the readers get an enjoyable experience.
Bare Bones Basics
Bare Bones writing can be excellent writing. Robert B. Parker, best known for the “Spenser” novels, wrote short, terse passages that kept us turning pages in 67 books.
Ernest Hemingway credited his training as a journalist for his short sentences, requiring succinctness and concision due to space constraints in printed newspapers. He didn’t feel there was room for flowery, poetic language in his novels, either.
Haiku is a traditional form of poetry in Japan which differs slightly from the English version. Conventional Japanese Haiku has a rigid structure arranged around a set syllable count of seventeen. When translated into English, these verses are presented in three lines and follow the same pattern of syllables. It’s the skeleton exposed, a bare-bones experience for the reader.
Editors Understand the Bones
Editors are looking for the bones of any work. It’s the skeleton, structure, and for most writers, the concept or idea for their writing, including only what is most basic or necessary.
For humans, there are muscles, tendons, nerves, facial features, and hair systematically layered over the skeleton, and ultimately, we have a unique looking human being.
Our writing should reflect this same layering. Your skeleton, while strong, is still the bare bones. You’ve got to add interesting images, powerful words, information that educates, entertains or enchants your readers.
Editors Wear Several Hats Looking for the Bones
Our job as editors is to read the post with a critical eye. Before you decide that we’re all out to bash your writing, understand what a critical eye is. Simply put, it’s careful judgment about the good and bad parts of the writing.
An editor is also a cheerleader and coach. I know how it feels to have something rejected, so I make an effort to encourage guest writers when I get a submission.
Editors can’t function without submissions, so it makes no sense to be harsh in our communication with the writers. There are ways to communicate problems with the writing while still valuing the idea, and using the sandwich method works well for the editor and writer’s relationship, which shouldn’t be thought of as adversarial.
Some submissions only need a tweak – add a comma, remove a comma, take out the double period, or make sure that the semi-colon is used correctly and shouldn’t have been yet another comma. If that’s all that needed, then I’ve been a copy editor.
If I receive a submission that doesn’t require even a comma change and is ready for publication, I’ve still edited it by proofreading it before publication.
Then there are times that a post has a great concept, but the writer made a left turn at Albuquerque and lost the original idea with too much tangential information.
However, suppose the idea or concept was worthwhile. In that case, I may send it back with suggestions for corralling the interesting content and recommend that the unnecessary information might be more suitable for an additional post.
Typically, guest blog posts don’t require a developmental editor, but I wore that editing hat in the example above.
I Know Your Proofed It; Why Did I Change It?
Most editors are not comma queens, or usage Mavens, waiting to use Track Changes and send you back a red screen full of corrections, with snarky comments.
A good editor reviews your work from several perspectives, including link appropriateness, checking facts, spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
There are times when an editor changes something to make the writing flow better, including shifting paragraphs to hone in on the focus of your work.
Start with Your Bones
I know you have an excellent idea for a poem, short story, or problem-solving post for writers and bloggers. I would welcome an opportunity to work with you to get it published on Two Drops of Ink.
Like most sites, we have submission guidelines. These guidelines make sure that you submit a post that doesn’t require extensive editing. But, if you’ve got great bones in your post, it will get published.
How can you double-check your post before you submit it?
- Does the content feel evenly distributed?
- Is the topic precise?
- Does each section or subheading relate to the subject?
- How comprehensive is your content?
- Have you added links or definitions where you think a reader might wonder about a concept or word?
- Are there sentences, passages, or entire sections that you can leave out to streamline the reading experience?
In the meantime, enjoy the season with family and friends, and even if I get your submission after the new year, I’ll try to remember, “A good editor is like tinsel to a Christmas Tree…they add the perfect amount of sparkle without being gaudy.”― Bobbi Romans
Bio: Marilyn L. Davis
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, Indie Books, and Books A Million.
For editing services, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing