5.15.2009

Why Writers Need Editors

Come on over to my new Associated Content Site and read my latest article on why writers need editors! Why Writers Need Editors There are many reasons to hire an editor, but they are often outweighed by uncertainty, naivete and often plain old hubris. Let's discuss how to overcome these feelings and do what often feels counter-intuitive to most writers: seek help from others. http://www.associatedcontent.comarticle/1735934/why_writers_need_editors.html

6 comments:

  1. What do you do if someone pays you to edit their work, and it's perfect? Serious question. Do you tell them, or is there going to be the temptation to advise changes to make it look like you're earning your fee?

    And is there not the possibility that your vision as an editor will clash with that of the editor at the publishing house or magazine where the work is ultimately going to be submitted?

    Sorry about the late comments, I only just found you through PWB.

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  2. Oh, I meant to say.

    "You can even feel it from the outside, like your guts are trying to wring themselves dry."

    I love that line. Great story BTW.

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  3. Anton -- Great questions, and I will do my best to answer them.

    If someone pays me to edit their work, and it's already perfect, then I will have to assume I'm editing the work of God and promptly refund his or her money. In all honesty, I have yet to come across any first draft piece of writing (which is typically what I edit), even from otherwise great writers, that is anywhere near close to perfect. And that is not intended as a remark of disparagement toward any writer. That is simply the reality. It is really only the chronic self-editor and the one who has never really shared his or her work with anyone outside a closest circle of supportive friends and family, who believe that it's possible to get it right the first time, or even the second or third if they are the only ones editing and revising their work. I've had similar wake-up calls with my own writing. I wrote without guidance for years, trying to remember all I'd learned from my high school and college writing classes, steaming ahead on that puffed up ego provided by teachers who saw my potential but never really took that extra time to tell me exactly what I needed to do if I wanted to do more than simply make A's in their classrooms.

    I learn more and more about this business and the expectations of publishers and agents every day, and what I've learned is I've been wrong. A lot. Those are the lessons that drove me to learn everything I could about the business of writing, editing, and publishing so I could help others not make the same mistakes.

    Have I encountered pieces of writing that have been largely free of a need for a major edit? Most definitely. If your ducks are mostly in order and all I see is the need for the insertion of some missing commas, the correction of a few misspelled words, or the rewording of an awkward sentence, then all I would recommend would be the Proofread level of editing. This is all decided when I do the sample edit, before any contracts or money have changed hands.

    Any business transaction demands a certain level of trust on the part of the consumer and the service provider, but I can say it is not in my best interests as a the owner of such a small, intimate business to lie to my clients. They would know, I would know, and I would lose their business. I take my work very seriously and I love what I do. I would not waste my time or the client's time suggesting revisions that were not needed. We agree via contract to what is needed ahead of time, and I am only paid for that level of work. It does not behoove me professionally or financially to deviate from this.

    As for my vision clashing with the publisher's vision, that doesn't really enter the equation for me. I work for the author. All suggested revisions I make are geared to help the author reach or maintain his or her vision for the work in question and to use my knowledge of storytelling and the publishing market to help advise my clients of what may or may not work. They are not obligated to accept my advice, however. The final decision to implement the subjective suggestions I make to a document or manuscript rests with the creator. Sometimes they agree with me. Sometimes they don't, and that's fine with me.

    The value of a good edit from an objective professional is immeasurable if you are trying to get published in today's smaller, highly competitive market. And it's also advantageous for self-publishers who want to lend their work that additional level of credibility and professional flourish. Our job is to put the polish on it so that those managing editors, agents, and publishers will even want to look at it in the first place.

    And thank you for reading and liking my story. I will be sure to check out your work as well. :)

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  4. Wow, thanks for the comprehensive answer.

    I was just being a bit cheeky with my first question, I hope you don't really think I was being serious.

    Is today's market really smaller? It's more fragmented and it's increasingly on-line or ebook focussed but I suspect it's growing. (This is me, never afraid to tell a professional their business...)

    I wouldn't waste your time looking at my work. It'll give you nightmares, but not in the way "Vermin" does.

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  5. Well, yes and no. The traditional publishing market is most definitely shrinking. Getting published in print has never been harder, unless you're self-publishing (that industry is soaring). E-books and online publishing, yes, is growing by leaps and bounds. But most people are still trying to break into traditional print and don't yet see the "legitimacy" of the electronic market. In another ten years or so, when everyone actually does have a Kindle or something similar, it will definitely change.

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  6. And if it changes to the extent that existing publishers fade away in favour of authors directly marketing their work, either off their websites (unlikely) or through an iTunes type service for ebooks, possibly Amazon or Google, then independent editors are going to become essential to replace the service currently provided by a publisher.

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