Thursday, October 16, 2014

Edit...or...

I thought it might be useful to talk about editors. What are they? What do they do? What don't they do? Whether you are traditionally published or self published you cannot send a book out into the world without the advice and assistance of an editor. And why, exactly, do you need one?

First of all - some definitions. Different kinds of editors/editing do different things.

1. A commissioning/publishing editor: this is the person at a traditional publishing house that chooses the manuscripts from the slush pile that they think deserve publishing. They champion these manuscripts at acquisition meetings and contract with the author for the work, if the acquisitions committee agrees to publish the work.

2. Copy editor/editing: copy editing is about spelling and punctuation and grammar. Do your sentences function effectively and mean what you want them to mean? It's also about consistency; of spelling, comma use, etc... UPDATE - a good editor will also fact check, e.g. place names, dates of events etc...(Thanks Sue!).

3. Structural editor/editing: does your plot work; does it sag in the middle; is everything in the right order; are your characters believable; do you have too many characters; too few; do their interactions ring true; does the action propel the plot forward effectively? Structural editing is also about consistency - does the hero have the same eye and hair colour all the way through; is their personality consistent? and so on.

4. Manuscript assessment: an editor might offer a manuscript assessment service. Usually this focuses primarily on structural editing and the general impressions about whether your manuscript is publishable.

I love editors. I know my weaknesses. I have a tendency to lose control of my commas, and my use of them is inconsistent. Usually my spelling is pretty good but I have writer friends who need help with it. Sometimes my sentences veer toward the passive. And I have to have an impartial reader confirm that my stories make sense and work like I hope they do. Even if you believe you write perfectly, it is worthwhile having a fresh pair of eyes confirm this. But seriously, every story can be made better. I like my stories being sharpened up.

An editor is not there to massage your ego and praise your genius. They are not there to tell you what you want to hear. You can tell yourself that already.They are there to recognize and help you realise the potential of your story. They will point out any errors, inconsistencies and problems with the narrative. They may encourage you and help nurture the development of your writing. If they are experienced and good at their job, if they have edited stories that have gone on to be successfully published, then you should trust their judgement.

They are not a guarantee of the publication or success of your manuscript. No one can guarantee that. You do not have to accept or implement everything they suggest. You decide. It is your story. Your name is the one that will be on the book cover. But their only interest is in improving your manuscript. They have read a lot of manuscripts and have a good idea of what works and what doesn't. I pick my battles, and only question their advice if i can prove to them and myself that I was on the right track to begin with.

This article also talks about the function and benefits of editors - and the fact that if they do their job well, you can't see where they've been. The best are invisible.

A good editor will cost. That's fair enough. They are providing a service and their expertise. Its worth it to get your story into the best shape to be a book. Make sure when you contract an editor to work on your manuscript that you discuss and confirm with them what type of editing they will do - copy, structural, assessment, or some combination of those.

A good rule of thumb for picking an editor is to choose one with proven experience. Anyone can call themselves an editor but it's a skilled job requiring a depth of knowledge and familiarity with the requirements of language and publishing standards. Word of mouth can be a great way to find one, or through the acknowledgements section of books you've admired. Some good local freelance children's editors that I have worked with are:

Christine Dale - ex commissioning editor Scholastic NZ

Sue Copsey - ex editor Dorling Kindersley, Pearson Education.



Well folks - I hope this is helpful.

3 comments:

kiwis-soar.com said...

Hi Melinda, I love the way you take the time to share information with other writers. Thank you

Cate Harris said...

Great post, Melinda. The different types of editorial role are nicely summarised.
I particularly liked this bit: "They are there to recognize and help you realise the potential of your story."
I'm working with a freelance editor in the US who's worked for several children's book publishers and that's exactly what she's doing for me.

Cate Harris said...
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