Thursday, November 01, 2007

Keep Those Edits Behind The Curtain

In the last few days, someone asked me how I handled the editing process. The question was searching for a particular response--and I didn't give it. They wondered if I was one of those writers who fight over every phrase and sentence when someone changes it during the editorial process. You know the folks (or maybe you are one of them). These writers are overly focused on the details. Instead I look at the edits and see if they further the larger goals of producing excellence. Also I consider the experience of the person who is editing and my relationship with them. In 99.9% of the cases, the edits are improvements to my writing and I incorporate these changes into my finished work.

Whether you have been much published or never been published, you want to think about--and position yourself as someone who works cooperatively throughout the publishing process. Yes there are prima donnas in this business who balk at almost every word change but in the long-run, publishers and editors will not want to work with these people. I can think of a fiction author where I loved their initial work. This author has changed publishing houses and literary agents multiple times in recent years. And from my perspective their work has suffered for these changes. They are no longer dominating the bestseller list. Behind the scenes I wonder how much editorial polish was poured on those early novels which I loved--and those novels kept me reading until the early morning hours to complete them.

Every now and then there is a proper time to push back on the editing process. For example, several years ago I submitted a requested article to an Internet E-zine editor. When I saw the edited document, it had kernels of my writing but overall the tone of the entire article had been changed to match the editor--and not my voice. I balked, pulled the article and silently promised never to work with this editor again. In some circles, she has a voice and prominence--and while she may have written a series of ebooks, I've never seen a printed book from a traditional publisher which this editor has written. Nor has she published in print magazines and her work only appears online. From our exchanges, she understood how she over stepped her role as an editor. It's one of the few times I balked at the editorial process in my years of publishing in many different mediums.

I would encourage you to read Sara Nelson's Editorial, Stet the Edit in the October 22nd, Publishers Weekly. (If you don't know Stet means "leave it as it is.") I would not be interested in seeing any of my material re-released pre-edited. I'm not in favor of it happening with some of these literary classics. To teach writers, there is merit at times to showing the edits. James Michener before his death published James A. Michener's Writer's Handbook and shows in detail the editorial process on his manuscripts. It's a fascinating lesson for writers.

For my view, I'd just as soon keep those edits behind the curtain where no one sees them.

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2 Comment:

At 1:57 PM, Blogger Michele Left a note...

Very interesting! Like you, I choose to be flexible with the editing process. I have also noticed that in the end, the edits that are made to my work polish the piece to make it shine a little brighter ;0)

Thanks for your thoughts on the publishing/editing process.

Michele L. Tune
"Writing the Cyber Highway"

At 6:45 AM, Blogger (Jim &) Brandy Brow Left a note...

Timely post for me now that I'm working the editorial side of the desk.

And I have new appreciation for editors whose writers sputter over changes. I wish they would understand that their writing is not about them and what they want to express, but about the reader and helping him understand the message.

Brandy of The Building Brows


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