FCWC BLOG

The ART of Exceptional Editing
1/4/2016 12:00:01 AM by: Deb Haggerty

 

 

ed•it \’e-dət\ vt [back-formation fr. editor] (1791) 1 a : to prepare (as literary material) for publication or public presentation b : to assemble (as a moving picture or tape recording) by cutting and rearranging c : to alter, adapt, or refine esp. to bring about conformity to a standard or to suit a particular purpose. (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition, p. 396)

 

Editing is the icing on the book “cake.”

After the author has labored to produce a manuscript, the editor takes a turn to perfect the manuscript. Obviously, we read the document first. . Pre-computer, we’d use a red pencil – -—making notes of changes to make, areas to tighten up or delete. We’d look for clichés and tired illustrations as well as grammar and punctuation errors. And typos—amazing what misteaks mistakes exhausted fingers can produce!

Today our job is similar, except we labor with Track Changes instead of a red pencil or pen. The computer has made editing both easier and more difficult. Editing is easier as we can make and undo changes with one mouse click instead of writing in the margins or between the lines. We can easily add and delete comments. We can instantly reformat pages or quotes.

But Track Changes has a problem too. Changes are so easy, we can go overboard and erase an author’s voice and methodology. We can forget our job: to alter, adapt, or refine … to suit a particular purpose. We are to assist the author to perfect their work.

I communicate with an author frequently while editing. We should work as partners—both striving to improve the quality of the manuscript. When working with an experienced author, that process is completed with little agita or angst. They’re familiar with the process and know changes will need to be made. They realize what they’ve written may be unclear to another reader and need revision; we also meet the “seasoned” author who believes their work is well-seasoned and resists efforts to perfect the recipe.

The most difficult author is one who thinks they have written a masterpiece, but when we read their work we groan at the banality of the story. There are typos and grammar and punctuation errors throughout and the story leaps from point of view to point of view within a single paragraph. When we have to send a manuscript back to be completely rewritten, they don’t understand, because “God gave me these words to write!” I’ve had to relay such bad news to an author—never easy.

What can we do to make our (and their) jobs less challenging and more collaborative? We can practice The ART of Exceptional Editing.

  • A- Attention to detail.

Make sure the manuscript is grammar, punctuation, and usage errors-free. To accomplish this, we must keep updated on the latest rules. Reference material ( Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, The Chicago Manual of Style, Webster’s Dictionary of Synonyms, the Christian Writer’s Manual of Style by Robert Hudson, Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors by Kathy Ide, and more) should grace our bookshelves and stay current. Rules change; our language is fluid. Old mandatory rules, such as commas surrounding or preceding the word “too” have changed. “But” may no longer need a comma preceding it. The use of the comma depends on the length of the sentence—whether the sentence is short (no comma) or long (comma suggested). Consistency is needed throughout the document. I am grateful when my publishers have a style sheet for the author and me to follow.

  • R- Responsiveness.

When an author submits their manuscript, they anticipate our prompt response. Is the book good? Do you like it? When do you think you can have changes back to me? To facilitate communicate easily, we email back and forth.We should respond to an inquiry or question within twenty-four hours if possible. The burden of responsiveness is upon us. Unless we work efficiently, we delay publication. Once our first pass has gone back to the author, they need to respond expeditiously to accept the changes we’ve suggested. If they disagree with us, they need to discuss them with us,  make any changes of their own, and return the book to us for final edits.

  • T- Teamwork

When we team up with our authors, we have the best chance of producing a good work. We should practice the “rabbinical method” of editing, “Come, let us sit down together and work to make this perfect” rather than the “Socratic method, “I am the expert. You sit and listen to what I tell you and make the changes I direct you to make.”

When we function as a team, all the pieces blend and we will enjoy our The ART of Exceptional Editing.

 

Your thoughts: Do you enjoy attention to detail or are you thankful for editors who enjoy it? 

 

 

Deb Haggerty: Editor for Elk Lake Publishing. 

For almost thirty years, Deb has written stories about her experiences. She’s published in over twenty books, and has more than fifty articles to her credit. Deb has been on the staff for several Christian writers’ conferences, including Glorieta, Florida, and CLASSeminars. She has an MBA in Personnel and Human Resources Management and a BA in English. At present, She reviews Christian books and interview authors on her blog, PositiveGrace.com.

Deb and her husband, Roy, have been married for over thirty years. They live in Plymouth, MA, along with Coki, their miniature dachshund.

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