by Alison Janssen
You guys, today I want to talk about editing, and how I believe that good editing should be a conversation. Not a list of "this must be changed!" dictates from editor to author, nor a bunch of "uh-huh"s from an author who isn't really listening. A conversation, where both parties are engaged, open, and thinking.
I get the sense sometimes that authors -- especially first-time authors -- are very nevous about working with an editor. As if we're big scary beasts with REJECTED stamps for hands and red pens for teeth, and we wear tweed, suede-elbowed jackets and knock back martinis while we knaw thoughtlessly on your pristine manuscripts.
(Note to Barbara: Let's pitch that monster to Syfy as the next Sharktopus. Actually, we should combine the scary editor with other scary publishing figures. The pitch could go something like, "With the publishing world in crisis, the threat of ebooks killing print sales, and the big 6 publishers crashing under their own gargantuan weight, one intrepid publisher has one Red Bull too many and comes up with a seemingly brilliant idea: Combine an agent, editor, and literary critic into a time-and-money-saving literary behemoth. Using his company's own Cloning for Fun and Profit! handbook, he sequesters himself in the basement stacks of the building, fueling his laboratory by burning old, remaindered copies of The Stones of Summer and creating THE MEGALIT. But what this poor publisher doesn't know is that his company skimped on copyediting costs, and a fatal typo in Cloning for Fun and Profit! has led to MEGALIT being possesed of a total lack of literary taste, and a wild, uncontrollable appetite for the pure fear-sweat of hopeful authors. Rampaging thorugh the streets of New York City, MEGALIT Rejects, Revises, and Reviles every WIP it can get its red-fanged mouth around, and then licks the poor, disappointed authors to death. Can the well-meaning but foolish publisher gain control of his creation ... before it's too late?")
Ahem, I'm sorry, what was I talking about?
Right. Truth is, editors aren't big scary beasts. We don't want to take over an author's novel with our own twisted ideas, and we don't suggest changes for no reason.
I love what I do, and I love conversing with authors about their work, and where I see opportunities for change, emphasis, or expansion. Editing is not about Things The Author Did Wrong. Sure, there may be a mistake or two (like whoops, you had this character lighting the same cigarette twice in one scene), but more than that, editing is about an engaged, thoughtful, third-party reader thinking critically about your work. It's about me saying, "This is what I got from Chapter Seven," and then you saying, "Well shoot, this is what I *wanted* you to get from Chapter Seven," and then both of us working to figure out how to get from your work on the page to your intention.
So don't be intimidated by your editor. A great editorial relationship is a conversation, and half of that conversation will be through the words of the manuscript.
p.s. MEGALIT is a totally lame name for that beast, but I haven't had enough coffee to come up with something better. Ideas?