Saturday 19 July 2014

Every text should have one – a fresh-eyed edit

Writers, particularly less experienced ones, often worry that substantial changes might be made to their texts during the editorial process. They worry a little that the story may be lost or skewed. They’re also worried about the amount of work that may be involved.
It’s actually quite unlikely that an editor will ask for major changes to the story. After all, they have accepted this story for publication.  They like it!

However, writers are perhaps right to worry about the amount of work involved. Editing is a rigorous process. Some indication that a new writer is robust enough to complete this successfully is useful to the publisher.

Strengthening already good work
Writers should remember that work has been accepted because the publisher considers it right for their publication. The editorial process is all about eliminating any weaknesses. The editor and the publisher are on the same side as the writer – they are not just there to throw their weight around or criticize. This is all about making the book the best it can be.

Filling gaps
The first edit is all about this. Is the plot water-tight? Is it logical? Is there cause and effect? Are the characters balanced and believable? Is there enough tension? Is there contrast: between fast and slower pace, tension and relaxation, types of narrative? Does the story make sense? Is the resolution satisfying? 

Text flow, voice and tone
Is the writing firm all the way through? Is the voice and tone consistent? Does it remain engaging for the reader? Are both reader and writer each consistently the same person? Does it show not tell where appropriate? Is dialogue effective?

A close look at language
Finally the language used is scrutinised further. Does every word say what it means and mean what it says? Has the best possible word been used each time? Are spellings, grammar and punctuation correct? This, of course, will be revisited during the proof read.
Included here will be a house-style check and this is where a writer might expect more substantial changes. This is all about the style the publisher uses – how do they show thoughts, do they use single or double speech marks, how are chapter headings set out, how do they show section breaks and which method do they use for determining when numbers are written as words.
House style is not about whether your story as it stands suits the particular house or not – it’s already been chosen because it does.

Why fresh eyes?
Surely you would think the writer has done this already. Of course. In fact, the better shape the text is in before the publisher starts working on it, the better it will eventually become. The writer may also have shown the text to writing group friends, beta readers and even an editorial agency.   
The in-house editor has the advantage of knowing exactly where the publisher will be placing the book and therefore knows what needs doing to it to make it the strongest it can be.
It will be hard work but it will also be extremely productive.                 

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