Please welcome editor Judy Beatty!!
Tonya asked me to write a blog on editing, and I’ve been mulling around what I want to tell you over and over in my mind for days now. I have finally zeroed in on some things that I feel are important to the editor, and for the author.
In editing a manuscript, there can be a tendency to “want” to forget that the author has his or her own voice, and change sentences into how we as editors would say it if we had written it. This is where we can make or break trust in the person we are editing for. It’s common to try and change sentences around to our liking, but once the author’s voice is revealed, we must edit in their way of thinking, and not ours. I had one lovely author recently tell me that she sees my grammatically correct sentences and says “Grammatically correct? What’s that?” Also, I edited a book for an author that had characters speaking the worst English I have ever heard, but that is the way he wanted it, and that is the way I had to learn to edit his book. Now I am highly aware and try to find the pattern and rhythm in each authors writing, and once I do that, I can easily edit without changing their voice.
Punctuation tends to be an issue in every manuscript I edit. Commas are by far the most overused punctuation on the planet. Quotation marks inside or outside of the period/exclamation point/comma are another issue. I find this rule handy: If in Britain, put the quotes outside of the punctuation, and if in America, put them inside. Since most of us are in America, writing to Americans, then I try to keep what our readers are used to seeing prevalent. If any of you are writing to a British audience, please tell your editor so they can edit accordingly (I say with tongue in cheek).
It helps, also, to have a wonderful daughter who teaches high-school English for a living. AHEM…YES, I do write her occasionally when I get stumped and ask for her opinion, and thank God, she is so quick to help me.
I love working with already published writers, but am sad to say that so many manuscripts are getting edited (even [especially] by major publishing companies) and leaving so much to be desired; and you, the author, have probably paid through-the-nose to have them edited, but they are still so full of errors and have been published that way. Since I do a lot of re-editing for authors who are already published, I feel deeply sorry for them and want to do everything in my power to make their manuscripts as clean as possible. When I read a book for fun, and it is full of errors, I tend to cringe and put it down. Actually, that is how I got started in editing. I read a series by a well-known author, and found so many mistakes that I wrote her and asked if she would like for me to fix them. She sent me her manuscripts and I was on my way with a new career.
New writers are fun to edit, and a bit more time-consuming, because they are just finding their voice and a good editor can help them find it if he or she is willing to take the time to discuss issues with the writer. It’s great fun to watch new writers evolve, and see each new book come to life with more of “them” in it.
My final thought is, no matter if you are an already published author, or if you are just starting out –edits will need to be done; sometimes over and over again, until the manuscript is so squeaky clean you can see your face in it. I do look forward to working with many of you, and will continue to enjoy reading your works, and editing to my heart’s content.