I just received the gift of a book in the mail. I had already read this book but I was very pleased to receive it. In fact, I’d gone through this particular book in meticulous detail. The author signed the title page for me and graciously thanked me for my advice. The book in hand was a bonus for editing the work.
Editing is such picky work. I zip into and out of the on-line Chicago Manual of Style a lot. I tweak here and economize there. No matter the level of the edit, the key to good editing is asking the right questions.
Here’s a sample of the sorts of questions that run through my mind as I work:
Should that be 18th Century or Eighteenth century? Should I leave a quirky passage alone to keep the author’s voice or is the joke too much of a reach? Should I suggest new elements? Does the material make more sense if it is reorganized? Does this follow logically from that? Is that assertion a fact? Is that translation correct? What design elements could I suggest to make the book pop? What elements could I suggest that would convert a browser into a buyer? Is there an opportunity missed here? What marketing strategy could I suggest to make this a book with real long-tail potential? What’s missing? (That last one can take the work to a new level.)
In short, a good editor or proofreader will question everything.
An experienced editor will pick up on what’s on the page and what’s not there that’s hurting the book.
In the end, I let it go back to the author to decide which of my suggestions to act upon. When it’s done, the author’s name is on the front cover. I always say some variation of: “She’s still your baby. She’s healthy and you’ll recognize her. She wasn’t sick but she’s feeling even better now.” The reader will never know how much or how little I did. The job is to make the author look good. (And sell more books.)
And you know what? It’s fun. I’m not gleeful about it in the way I know some editors are. When I was in journalism school and when I worked for a daily newspaper, I ran into editors who were looking for stuff so they could catch you out. It was a game for them and they acted like it was the only way they could find to feel good about themselves. When they caught something—anything—writers got snarky remarks and not just a little passive aggressive indignation. Editors like that are sad and make me tired.
I find editing fun because it’s an intellectual challenge and the collaborative process makes the book better than it otherwise would have been. Higher quality editorial work translates to more authority to the author, more sales for the current book and more sales for the author’s next book. A helpful edit can morph an experiment that didn’t quite come together into a legacy book that will delight, distract, elevate, educate, provoke, redeem and earn for years to come.
A good edit will pay for itself.
And generally? No, an unedited book doesn’t stand a chance.
- Writers: How I edit (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- Edit Point: One another versus each other (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- Editing Tips Part 1: Story bible (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- The Chicago Manual of Style Online: Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide (chicagomanualofstyle.org)
- Editing Web Sites for Success: What Are the Rules and Where Are the Resources? (community.microsoftadvertising.com)
- Writers: Finding an editor & should you be a joiner? (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- Publishers have to weigh the value of clean copy (stevebuttry.wordpress.com)
- Writers: Use a spill file as you edit (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- Writers: Five editing tricks and tips (plus editing marks) (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- What happened to that beautiful novel I wrote? (lindacassidylewis.com)