Writing 101: What A Good Editor Will Do
Sometimes I get bugged when people say they ‘haven’t got around to writing a book’ as if it’s a whiffly-whaffly hobby you pick up, like doing some knitting. Writing is a real challenge, I’m still learning, and the process is long. What’s more, it doesn’t end when you think it does. Next comes editing.
Editing is hard work, both for the editor and the writer. On the left is a column of notes I had this week from my editor. Dealing with all of these queries can be tricky and head-spinning.
A couple of months ago I wrote a short piece about the new breed of editors, and said this;
It’s important to match the right editor to the author. An editor may ask for much more than just minor changes and even demand a complete reworking of material. I can see a future where writers must be prepared to think very differently about books. The work wonâ€™t stop with the delivery of the manuscript. Thatâ€™s where it will start to get interesting.Â I for one canâ€™t wait. Writers work alone, get no feedback and often go off-track. If thereâ€™s trust, an editor can collaborate with the writer to ensure that the book stays focussed and sharp, and become something unique.
Well, that prophecy is coming about sooner than I expected. At the moment I’m at different stages on several books. Each book has three edits and a proof. The first edit is thematic, the second detailed, the third a fine-tune, and the proof is for cleaning out mistakes. Sometimes you’re doing more than one set at once.
One of my editors is older and more instinctive. He’s a seasoned professional who gets to know the writer, trusts the work, nudges me in a certain direction and suggests guidelines. We communicate by email using electronic editing software.
The other I’m working with is a new breed, more of a collaborator. He has a vision of the book that may not match mine, but is prepared to thrash it out in order to raise the work to a higher level, from a ‘maybe’ purchase to a ‘must-have’. We work in the same room together on bits of paper, with pens. This one is younger.
They’re radically different styles and both are equally valid. I enjoy both, but lately have particularly enjoyed the latter because I love collaborating. I’d really like to work with another writer on a project and mash up something, probably because that’s how I was trained.Â I don’t think I have a logical mind, but editors provide and demand logic. If you don’t take this stage seriously, you have no book.