Tuesday, 10 August 2010
The dying art of editing?
You often hear that the art of editing is dead. I’ve read many articles along the lines that the truly great editors, the sort who can turn a sow’s ear into a literary silk purse, are a dying breed and today, all editors really do is cross a few t's and dot a few i's.
I don’t know if this is true in some of the big publishing houses. I expect like most things, it’s true in some cases and not others. What I can say with complete confidence is that this hasn’t been my experience with the small independent publisher who has taken on my young teen novel.
If I’m hand-on-heart honest, I never really ‘got’ what an editor did until now.
Because my deal involved re-writing sections of the story, I’ve had a lot of back and forth emails with mine. It started with a revised synopsis and then I had to go away and write the altered version. I handed this in and waited with bated breath.
She got back to me within days saying lots of nice things but telling me my ending still wasn’t right. I was quite tempted to howl on the ground and drum my feet at this point, convinced I was just a rubbish writer who would never do it properly. She assured me this was all perfectly normal, even with well-established authors.
I felt a bit better. And then she sent on the marked up copy...
My first reaction was, to put it in blunt and not very erudite terms, OMG in fifty point bold capitals. It seemed like she had gone through with a red pen and hated every word of it. It didn’t help that I was ill that day and had no sense of perspective about anything.
A couple of days later I sat down with it properly and carefully went through all the comments. I was struck forcibly by two things. One was that some of the changes were incredibly small, the other was that I could see she was right in the overwhelming majority of cases.
I’ve just finished my second re-write and the editor has breezily assured me that there will no doubt still be a few issues to be resolved. I feel like I can cope with this because I know that will result from all this will be a much better book.
So whatever you might hear, the art of editing is definitely not dead everywhere.