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Is there an agreement on what editing is?

As a playwright and actor, I had side jobs over the years working for the literary departments of a famous theater and then a big talent agency, reading material, summarizing it, and discussing strengths and weaknesses - sometimes with suggestions as to how issues could be helped. I was always good in lit classes and can see some solutions clearly (though of course mine is just one opinion.)

What I find crazy now is that I still read writers’ work on occasion - I charge them - and few of them will really make substantial changes between drafts. (The proofreading they embrace… thank the Goddess.) Which is fine, but why would they introduce me as their editor at a book signing when they’ve ignored most of my suggestions?

My late friend left behind a fascinating lifetime of diaries. If I were to pare all that down and arrange it on my own into a volume, that would be my idea of “editing”. Taking writing and really shaping it. So I guess I am more of a consultant or [italic]ignored[/italic] editor when I do these jobs. But it’s really curious to me that writers will pay someone for advice and then throw most of it away.

At the same time, I should acknowledge these are mostly middling writers. If they actually knew how to write perhaps they’d dive in and make changes with less fear.

Are there any editors here, or writers who work with editors? What do you consider the job to be?

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by Thanksreply 83July 23, 2021 1:24 AM

I consider the job to be expert wordsmithing for clarity and understanding.

I've been a writer and editor for publications. When I edited the writing of others as part of an editorial board, we started by looking for spelling and grammar mistakes. We also eliminated irrelevant content (space was often limited) and rewrote sentences or paragraphs that were so garbled they made no sense. Every article was edited twice. It's amazing how you can miss the most obvious mistakes, like "pubic" for public. That one got by me once.

I greatly appreciate editors and preferred having more than one review any article I wrote. There was one terrific staff member in particular who could unearth the smallest error. I put out a quarterly newsletter for a regional agency and I made sure she saw the "final" version first. I also wrote and edited content for multiple websites, I love how you you can instantly change errors online (except here on DL).

I worked in advertising for many years on the graphics end and morphed into writing when a writer/editor was urgently needed. Although not formerly trained. I'm not overly confident about my skills but it's been a fun and challenging part of my career. I always get a kick out of being dissed by grammar queens here, it's usually well-deserved. But then I don't put the time and energy into thread posts that I would for material bearing my name, and I hate that we don't have an editing feature on posts.

by Thanksreply 1June 27, 2021 6:26 PM

Ha ha, find the errors in my above post.

by Thanksreply 2June 27, 2021 6:27 PM

[quote] r1 I also wrote and edited content for multiple websites, I love how you you can instantly change errors online (except here on DL).

Here I would suggest something other than the comma before “I love”. A more definitive separation of the elaboration. I like the occasional ellipses! Try them!

Additionally, I think it’s most correct to include that period inside the parentheses. I personally like the way you did it, though, and I sometimes do that, too.

[quote]r1 I worked in advertising for many years on the graphics end and morphed into writing when a writer/editor was urgently needed. Although not formerly trained.

A comma (or eclipses!) could join that last sentence to the one preceding.

[quote]R1 my name, and I

Some sticklers would insist a comma shouldn’t follow ‘but’ or ‘and’… although I like the way they can give a kind of pause, or breath, as you created there.

by Thanksreply 3June 27, 2021 6:45 PM

^^ I mean PRECEDE, not follow.

Oh god. (I myself refuse to capitalize ‘god’.)

by Thanksreply 4June 27, 2021 6:47 PM

I've worked with some really talented editors, especially while writing for a monthly publication coming out of the arts center of a Big 10 University. We had the luxury of not having to persuade our audience to "generate trial." They were at least committed enough to have either subscribed to the magazine or to have picked it up when visiting the facility. I wrote about a lot of subjects of which I had only the most cursory understanding. (What leaps to mind is a 3,000 piece on New Music, which bored me to the point of apoplexy.)

One of the most valuable lessons I learned is that the editor's first obligation is to the READER. As a really insightful editor once put it." You know what you're thinking, and I know what you're thinking, but if the reader doesn't understand what you're thinking, it's all rather a pointless exercise, isn't it?"

Good editing is easing the reader's task. Any editor that feels their foremost obligation is to the writer fundamentally misunderstands what the purpose of writing something down is.

by Thanksreply 5June 27, 2021 9:06 PM

In addition to editing for grammar, clarity, brevity, etc., I'm big on consistency—e.g., if you have a word that can be spelled/punctuated more than one way, making sure it's the same every time.

Consistency is especially important in fiction. Lu Burke, who copy-edited fiction at [italic]The New Yorker,[/italic] found so many inconsistencies among the characters in a John McPhee story she was working on that she created a "family tree" and sent it back to him.

by Thanksreply 6June 27, 2021 9:38 PM

I work in book publishing and editors nowadays have to be more concerned about acquisitions than actually doing any editorial work on a book.

That’s why there’s so much garbage being pushed out.

by Thanksreply 7June 27, 2021 9:43 PM

R5 You talk of persuading an audience to "generate trial".

Is "generate trial" an idiom in your community?

by Thanksreply 8June 27, 2021 10:19 PM

Catching errors is rather a thankless job, completely necessary but thankless. It's not something I enjoy doing or trust myself to do with the care and consistency required for a large work. I'll do it for a short piece, but generally leave that to others.

The editing I do more often is more concerned with style, understanding the writer's own way of writing and, from that, making hopefully subtle improvements that strengthen an argument, the flow, to give a better shape to the author's words. The goal is to find some style and tone that the writer has and to make it stronger, clearer, smoother without giving the appearance of stealing it and handing back something unrecognizable.

The first type of editing I can do, but it brings no pleasure and it bores me to bits after a short while. The second type I enjoy because it seems I've genuinely improved something rather than just fixed its mistakes.

by Thanksreply 9June 27, 2021 10:51 PM

I'm OP and R3 is not my post. Also, R3, thanks for the critique but I did not read it carefully because I've grown lazy and don't give much of a shit anymore. No offense intended, my brain cells can handle only so much these days.

R5, I totally agree about the editor's responsibility to the reader. Sadly, sometimes one has to assume the reader has the comprehension abilities of a 3 year old. At one time I wrote marketing material for a large public transportation agency and if people didn't clearly understand what they were reading some ghastly mistakes could be made.

by Thanksreply 10June 27, 2021 10:53 PM

One annoying mistake writers make and editors sometimes miss is repetitive words used within a sentence or paragraph. An example: "I was walking along the Amalfi coast when a fisherman walked by and I admired his fish," rather than "I was strolling along the Amalfi coast when a fisherman walked by and I admired his catch."

by Thanksreply 11June 27, 2021 10:59 PM

[quote] Is there an agreement on what editing is?

No there isn't. You need to ask the employer before you start.

Some people call themselves an Editor or a Commissioning Editor (like the late Jackie Kennedy)

And there are Sub-Editors or Copy Editors (who are punctilious, pedantic Pecksniffs).

by Thanksreply 12June 27, 2021 11:02 PM

There's also "light editing" (more like proofing and correcting really obvious mistakes) and "heavy editing (which involves editing for sense, clarity, rhythm, etc.)

by Thanksreply 13June 27, 2021 11:03 PM

Editor as saviour

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by Thanksreply 14June 27, 2021 11:09 PM

[quote] why would they introduce me as their editor at a book signing when they’ve ignored most of my suggestions?

Writing is a lonely business and they use you as a sounding board. Sometimes they will silently take your suggestion and other times they will listen to your 'sounding board' in order to re-affirm their original thought.

It's not easy reaching down into what Woolf calls the 'great bran pie'.

[quote] ‘The complexity of things becomes more close,’ said Bernard, ‘here at college, where the stir and pressure of life are so extreme, where the excitement of mere living becomes daily more urgent. Every hour something new is unburied in the great bran pie. What am I? I ask. This? No I am that.’

by Thanksreply 15June 27, 2021 11:38 PM

The wonderful Muriel Spark says everything should be edited… and then edited again.

We can't expect book-buyers to pay for waffle and fat, she said.

She is the perfect writer for the 21st century when everyone's attention-span has shrunk.

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by Thanksreply 16June 27, 2021 11:47 PM

[quote]R10 I'm OP and [R3] is not my post. No offense intended, my brain cells can handle only so much these days.

Do you mean you are r1? OP is whoever started the thread.

[quote]Also, [R3], thanks for the critique but I did not read it carefully because I've grown lazy and don't give much of a shit anymore.

R2 invited proofing of r1, which seemed to both be by the same poster. I guess you are saying you are not R2 (?)

Sorry it was unsolicited! I thought you were starting a game.

by Thanksreply 17June 28, 2021 12:07 AM

[quote] My late friend left behind a fascinating lifetime of diaries.

I hope you are working on it, OP.

I suspect the greater task will be the footnotes informing the reader about all the unknown 'dramatis personae'.

by Thanksreply 18June 28, 2021 12:14 AM

I would love to do it, but it would be such a huge undertaking. There are probably 20 handwritten journals to transcribe, for starters. I would need a grant!

She was a lesbian who led a very colorful and dramatic life, became a mother and then died young. That journey is quite dramatic - but it’s unlikely I’ll devote myself to it. But the idea’s intriguing.

by Thanksreply 19June 28, 2021 12:22 AM

[quote] There are probably 20 handwritten journals to transcribe

I absolutely HATE transcribing.

I hated how my big fingers made so many errors on the keyboard so I would 'edit' and shorten the text as I went through.

I now transcribe text by speaking it into the voice-recognition software on my late-model iPhone.

by Thanksreply 20June 28, 2021 12:31 AM

[quote] a lesbian who led a very colorful and dramatic life

I bet a lesbian will pick it up and use it as an 80 minute theatre piece which a niche audience of lesbians will adore.

by Thanksreply 21June 28, 2021 12:42 AM

I’m co-author of three college textbooks, sole author of one, and have been editor in chief of two scholarly journals. I enjoy both writing and editing and? In the case of the co-authored books, truly appreciated how well the editors assigned to the books were able to meld our individual voices into a single voice without losing a sense of style and personality. I enjoy editing other people’s writing and tend to use a light hand with their writing, other than issues of grammar, style, usage, and punctuation. I do some line editing, but, with rare exception, draw the line of doing wholesale rewriting beyond the sentence—if it needs revision beyond that, it’s either in need if authorial revision or rejection.

Proofreaders are close to non-existent these days and often just don’t capture errors with sufficient success. I did the index for the two co-authored books and found it interesting and even relaxing. My last publisher paid a professional indexer, who did a great job (and I was able to review the index before it went to press).

by Thanksreply 22June 28, 2021 1:01 AM

R22 One of mine was sent to a a professional indexer and they obviously had quite different ideas to me as to what was important (and unimportant) in the text.

I hope that all books will be available digitally in two decades or so so readers can do their own searching of the text and avoid this problem.

by Thanksreply 23June 28, 2021 1:07 AM

"Although not formerly trained."

Oh, dear, R1!

by Thanksreply 24June 28, 2021 1:17 AM

[quote] One annoying mistake writers make and editors sometimes miss is repetitive words

Oh, R11, did you notice the 'so so' in R23?

by Thanksreply 25June 28, 2021 1:21 AM

Its the difference between a copy editor and an editor. Copy editor will scan for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors and an editor for continuity errors and suggest changes to plot and characters.

by Thanksreply 26June 28, 2021 1:27 AM

Max Perkins and Muriel Spark (R14 and R16) said the author's text should be cut in half.

by Thanksreply 27June 28, 2021 1:30 AM

[quote]Are there any editors here, or writers who work with editors? What do you consider the job to be?

In fiction publishing, an editor today performs the job that the public would think of as a marketing executive. Editors read manuscripts and estimate whether they're worth purchasing. The larger the advance, the more people involved. No editor at a major house does anything like proofreading unless they stumble on an egregious error in the galleys.

An agent is a writer's first editor. The agent spots plot holes and shortcomings; comes up with suggestions to make the book better; and generally urges the writer to polish the manuscript in order to make it the best it can be before the agent sends it out to editors.

Here's the buzz book of the summer. The writer (a flight attendant) was an amateur and got turned down by 42 agents. I can guarantee you the agent who took it on must have polished the hell out of it.

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by Thanksreply 28June 28, 2021 1:42 AM

I know that classical music snobs say we must respect the composers' genius but I would love to be the editor who can bring ancient tomes to a new relevance to a new generation.

Somerset Maugham did it.

I'm sure if we could ask Willy he'd say he was merely 'filleting out the fat' or perhaps he'd say he was 'distilling the author's intentions'.

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by Thanksreply 29June 28, 2021 3:50 AM

I've worked with some good editors, some so-so.

In my experience it's best to always listen to them but not necessarily take their suggestions. Besides the basic catches, their edits are most useful in showing you where there is a problem.

I rarely take what they offer instead, but I rewrite the edited sentence or section in my own way. It's always worked to our mutual satisfaction.

by Thanksreply 30June 28, 2021 4:58 AM

The first job of editors is to immediately remove ephemeral fad words.

I'm a stickler and I'd remove the misused 'icon'.

by Thanksreply 31June 30, 2021 12:59 AM

I’ve worked in a few archives. I equate pairing down twenty journals to selecting 300 drawings out of 5,000. Show your friend in his best light. It seems like a worthy endeavor.

by Thanksreply 32June 30, 2021 1:46 AM

^^^their/her, didn’t mean to make things masculine.

by Thanksreply 33June 30, 2021 1:47 AM

[quote] There are probably 20 handwritten journals

Leonard Woolf had the same problem, R19.

He published a one volume edition of his late wife's letters about 14 years after her passing. About 20 years later all the gays started paying attention after Michael Holroyd's astute but gossipy 'Lytton Strachey' and the publishers realised that it was financially worth their while to publish the complete unabridged letters.

I'm in a similar situation with the diary of a local notable. I will be publishing a 48 page abridged version along with an optional CD for the less interesting remainder.

by Thanksreply 34June 30, 2021 1:56 AM

Editors need to check for those slippery words.

1. Words which have two meanings.

2. Words which can be used as nouns, verbs or adjectives.

I was reading a post here which had 'frequent' and 'race' in the one short sentence. I had to read it 3 times to figure out the writer's intention.

by Thanksreply 35July 4, 2021 10:36 PM

It is a problem that people conflate different types of editing. Also, they expect editors to do work that is not their responsibility.

You want fact checking? Hire a fact checker, because a that is not what a copy editor does. If you you want to make content consistent? Do not expect a proofreader to do that.

by Thanksreply 36July 4, 2021 11:51 PM

OP you are tiresome, too tired to give a shit. That means no talent. Go away.

by Thanksreply 37July 5, 2021 12:52 AM

R37 Real editor. Do you charge a lump sum or do you charge by the hour?

by Thanksreply 38July 5, 2021 6:31 AM

[quote] I equate pairing down twenty journals to selecting 300 drawings out of 5,000.

Pairing or paring?

by Thanksreply 39July 5, 2021 6:41 AM

Paring. Goddamn it. Paring!

by Thanksreply 40July 5, 2021 2:46 PM

Editors need to be wary of compound adjectives. This morning I mentioned a certain couple were pleasantly innocuous.

Noel Coward would use them a lot. For instance Celia might say that she's wildly happy now she's having an affair with Trevor.

I bet Terence Rattigan would mutter sotto voce 'Now Celia, were you 'wildly happy' or 'happily wild'?'.

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by Thanksreply 41July 5, 2021 11:14 PM

I worked as an editor. I saw my primary duties as survival and getting the book out at all. I did not have an exalted sense of my calling.

by Thanksreply 42July 5, 2021 11:25 PM

R42 Did you charge a lump sum or did you charge by the hour?

R37 didn't answer the question at R38.

by Thanksreply 43July 5, 2021 11:33 PM

I think 'fascinatingly bizarre' is another compound adjective, R41.

by Thanksreply 44July 7, 2021 4:57 AM

[quote] The first job of editors is to immediately remove ephemeral fad words.

And ephemeral fads such as spelling 'creative' as "kre8iv".

by Thanksreply 45July 7, 2021 11:38 PM

EDITOR!!!

by Thanksreply 46July 7, 2021 11:43 PM

[quote] I Can’t Even.

Editors need to check young Kerouac-wannabes who think it's OK to omit verbs from sentences.

by Thanksreply 47July 14, 2021 4:44 AM

Good choice of pic OP 😀

by Thanksreply 48July 14, 2021 4:52 AM

I'm a novelist. There are three types of editors, from my experience.

First, is what you seem to be. A friend, fellow writer, member of a workshop, who the writer pays (or not) to read for gross grammar mistakes, big errors, plot holes, etc. But is more a proof of concept editor. Making sure the idea is cogent, not trifling, not an utter mess. Basically getting it ready to send out.

Second, is the story/book editor (not sure if that's the technical term). This is the editor a writer deals with when a book has sold to a publisher. This editor is essentially the co-author. Or at least it almost feels that way! For me, my editor went through every single line of my book, reading mostly for content. She was a fucking godsend. Huge parts of the novel were cut. Small parts were altered. Sentences fixed. Storylines moved. Big stuff. For me, this takes weeks, if not months, of work. I had weekly due dates that my editor asked me to hit. She was always a phone call away. It's actually just as intense as the writing. Some of my other writer friends, however, have had the exact opposite experience with their respective editors. Eh.

Finally, there's the copy editor. They are the last round of defense and find every single spelling error, typo, grammar mistake. (I wish I had one for DL).

If any one of these three editors showed up at a book reading of mine, I'd proudly call them my editor. Though Number 2 would get the most praise and love.

by Thanksreply 49July 14, 2021 5:10 AM

[quote] I'm a novelist.

What kind of novelist, R49?

by Thanksreply 50July 14, 2021 5:14 AM

One that needs to supplement his income with writing shitty TV shows and bad movies, R50.

by Thanksreply 51July 14, 2021 5:23 AM

[quote]R48 Good choice of pic OP 😀

Thank you. I love that image, too.

I will read a manuscript or script and mark it up in red pencil, correcting spelling, punctuation, continuity… and make suggestions for untangling or clarifying sentences. This part is just proofreading to me, though. Not editing.

On a separate pad I make notes about things that are working or not working in the story, character developments, the progress of overall themes etc. I point out what they’re doing that’s tired or unclear, and what they’re doing that’s effective or at least intriguing. Then I summarize these notes into a piece about 4 or 5 pages long, basically talking about how the work could be improved.

What’s frustrating is the writers usually don’t do much with my bigger suggestions. (They always hire me again to read their next draft, so I see what they’ve embraced or rejected.) I think they don’t rework their writing too deeply because they’re just not used to crafting a piece with a bigger intention in mind. They just want to type out whatever comes into their head and that to them is writing a book or a script.

So since they don’t incorporate my construction suggestions too often, I have trouble seeing myself as an editor. There isn’t much editing of ideas going on. They would like to think they have an editor, but really they’re just willing to accept the proofreading part. (And I’m not saying my suggestions are the finest to be had… just that they’d give their piece more shape than it’s limping along with when I get it!)

I think I posted upthread that I feel more like an ignored editor than an editor… if you had to attach the word editor to it.

by Thanksreply 52July 14, 2021 5:31 AM

[quote] I think they don’t rework their writing too deeply because they’re just not used to crafting a piece with a bigger intention in mind.

I'm sympathetic to the difficulties that both authors and editors face.

They have to watch for about the small issues within a sentence simultaneous to watching for the bigger issues across the chapters.

by Thanksreply 53July 14, 2021 5:53 AM

R52, if you're just a free lancer? The writer is under no contractual obligation to accept your suggestions. That doesn't mean you didn't help or the writer doesn't consider you his/her editor.

Ultimately, it's their name on the title. They have to live with the final choices left in or taken out of their authored piece.

I think the fact the hire you repeatedly means your work is valued. Even ignored suggestions, as you put it, can be invaluable in the rewriting process.

by Thanksreply 54July 14, 2021 5:57 AM

I’m not saying anyone’s obliged to take my suggestions. Just that if they don’t, I haven’t contributed any real editing.

Proofreading and rearranging some sentences for clarity isn’t actual editing to me - it’s just pointing out common sense.

by Thanksreply 55July 14, 2021 6:06 AM

I despise having to edit electronically. Yes, yes...I know all the advantages, but I'd much rather have a paper manuscript to mark up. It also gives me the luxury of being able to flip back and check things without continuous and annoying scrolling back and forth. Sadly, I'd say 75% of my editing is done on the computer. Ugh...

by Thanksreply 56July 14, 2021 3:53 PM

[quote] I despise having to edit electronically. Yes, yes...I know all the advantages, but I'd much rather have a paper manuscript to mark up.

EXACTLY. I only edit hard copies. Red pen. I can quickly circle things, correct spelling, bracket paragraphs… even put smiley/frowny faces in the margins along with other coded symbols that I’ll elaborate on in my final, printed notes. Then of course there’s the inevitable question mark…sometimes two (??)

Writers always want to email me a work and I’m like, “No, YOU print it out, YOU send it or drop it off. “ If they don’t like it they can find someone else. As a side note, it’s amazing to me how cheap rich people can be. They always choose to drop it off. In a Mercedes or a Jaguar. For god’s sake, buy some stamps and get on with your life. Go ride your horse or something!

The truth is, reading these manuscripts is sometimes torturous. I want to read in bed, on the couch, throw the manuscript in my car and drive to a cafe or the beach. I don’t treat my laptop that way. Plus, I later meet the writers in person to go over the notes, walk them through the corrections on their pages along with my reasoning, etc. Having them then go home , sift through it all and make the corrections they accept themselves hopefully drills correct usage etc. into their minds more thoroughly than their just clicking on an electronic “accept all” tab. (Oh dear. I myself might mark that as “long sentence”.)

I do remember once I got a coffee mug ring on someone’s title page. I scanned it, cleaned it up, and printed a new one. I don’t think they noticed.

by Thanksreply 57July 14, 2021 5:14 PM

^^ Or, to be thorough and truthful, which I try to be and want them to be, I may have mimicked their font and margins, typed up a replacement and swapped the old one out.

Tragically, this detail is lost to the ages.

by Thanksreply 58July 14, 2021 5:27 PM

Grammar and helping with clarity is indeed editing!

If you want to be Max Perkins? Well, you're not. Move on from that dream.

But, as I've already stated, copy editing or editing in a more casual way IS editing. Accept the fact that you helped. Sheesh. What more do you want?

You sound like you need a life editor!

by Thanksreply 59July 14, 2021 8:47 PM

[Quote] I want to read in bed, on the couch, throw the manuscript in my car and drive to a cafe or the beach. I don’t treat my laptop that way.

OP r57 you can fling a manuscript across the room too

by Thanksreply 60July 14, 2021 9:34 PM

[quote]R59 But, as I've already stated, copy editing or editing in a more casual way IS editing. Accept the fact that you helped. Sheesh. What more do you want?

For them to become better writers with more focused stories. The world doesn’t need more bad books.

I’m very polite and tactful with them, though . I don’t think they suspect I have these inner Mommie Dearest twinges [bold] : )

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by Thanksreply 61July 14, 2021 10:49 PM

NO ONE CARES.

by Thanksreply 62July 14, 2021 10:55 PM

[quote] The world doesn’t need more bad books.

Are you talking about bad fiction books or bad non-fiction books?

There's a big demand for bad fiction books..

by Thanksreply 63July 14, 2021 10:55 PM

[quote]R62 NO ONE CARES.

Well, a lot of these authors don’t, that’s for sure. That’s part of what makes their writing flimsy.

by Thanksreply 64July 14, 2021 11:02 PM

R62 = Barkevious Mingo.

by Thanksreply 65July 14, 2021 11:08 PM

If you are improving a manuscript that's set before you, that's editing.

Why should that even be a question?

by Thanksreply 66July 15, 2021 6:09 AM

Are editors frustrated writers?

by Thanksreply 67July 15, 2021 7:38 AM

Write your own damn book, you bossy mother fucker!

by Thanksreply 68July 15, 2021 7:48 AM

[quote] Write your own damn book....

It's very difficult to write a book.

Most book-writers nowadays get secret help from ghost-writers, ghost-editors, and ghost-copy-editors.

by Thanksreply 69July 15, 2021 8:39 AM

[quote]R69 It's very difficult to write a book.

True. Yet I would also say it’s equally difficult to sell something as it is to write it. When I worked for that big talent agency, the five or so properties I really loved over the years sank without a trace.

by Thanksreply 70July 15, 2021 4:10 PM

I wonder ^

Poignant to think what happened to the books or their authors.

by Thanksreply 71July 15, 2021 4:22 PM

Then there were scripts that would pass through like “The Cell” which, while obviously dramatic and with great visual potential, NEEDED WORK… yet were seemingly in theaters, like, [italic]the next week.

by Thanksreply 72July 15, 2021 5:42 PM

(turning spotlight on himself)

That sentence might not need the “yet.”

Ellipsis change the landscape, somewhat.

by Thanksreply 73July 15, 2021 6:02 PM

Plus, R69, unneeded ghost hyphens, in abundance!

Dear wannabe authors,

Misuse its/it's once, and you're warned. Do it twice and your manuscript gets deleted.*

(* I'd use the antiquated term 'circular file' but the kiddies wouldn't understand.)

Sincerely,

The Editor

by Thanksreply 74July 15, 2021 6:16 PM

I sometimes like a sprinkling of ellipses and dashes, because they can add variety for those authors who have a fatal addiction to commas.

They can lend a nice stream of consciousness quality that’s refreshing. But don’t overdo it or you’ll just look crazy.

by Thanksreply 75July 15, 2021 6:42 PM

I'm not an editor, but I do legal writing and used to do creative writing.

I have had people ask me to read their school papers (masters thesis, dissertation) and legal briefs.

The most common thing I've found is lack of organization. It's hard to read pages and pages of text without headings and subheadings.

Also: too-long sentences.

Finally: lazy use of lengthy quoted material. IMO, if you're going to drop in a lengthy quote, you've got to introduce it and explain why you're dropping it in. Not just, "According to ____:".

by Thanksreply 76July 15, 2021 7:33 PM

"But it’s really curious to me that writers will pay someone for advice and then throw most of it away."

Well, most humans ask for advice and don't take it when given, that's just how we work. At one level, people just want to complain and don't actually want advice, but at another... asking for advice and getting is only a part of the decision-making process. Sometimes advice is sensible and it's taken, sometimes it's bullshit and is ignored, sometimes advice sends the thinking process in an entirely new direction, and inspires a decision that had nothing to do with the advice, or the original thinking about the problem.

As for editing, what most writers want from an editor is "wordsmithing", fixing errors and cleaning up grammar, and maybe spotting inconsistencies and illogic that the author might want to fix. I don't think most authors want big critiques, opinions, or suggestions for improvement from their editors, at least, not until they've gotten to know each other and established a level of trust. Doesn't an editor have to get very close to an author, before an author will take advice about sweeping changes seriously?

by Thanksreply 77July 15, 2021 8:46 PM

OP Read my ellipses....

by Thanksreply 78July 15, 2021 9:12 PM

I do agree with everything you've said, R77. There's a lot of factors going on with the writers I work with. Some of them are not professional writers, but those who've gotten into self publishing. Some of them are good, but most need help. I think becausethey're unsure of their abilities - they think their first effort/first draft is all they have in them, and if they start playing with it the manuscript will turn from something they (misguidedly) like into something they're unsure of. That is frightening to them. Or it could be ego. Or, rewriting too much just seems daunting.

But I think one thing I offer them is possible fixes that may not suddenly make theirs a good book, but at least a smoother story. For example, the piece I'm wading through now is an international espionage "thriller" (that's not very thrilling) in which a cult grows up around overthrowing world governments. One of the leaders is a poet, and in an early chapter there's something like, "The party came to a standstill as Denise read one of her poems aloud."

A problem with this long book is it takes so long to grasp what the philosophy and aim of the cult IS. "Overthrowing World Governments" is kind of generic. Like, why? If characters are going to devote their lives to this cause and recruit new members for it, I think we need a pretty firm understanding of where they're all headed and what they believe in. So I told the writer, "Here, where you say she reads a poem aloud, can you actually quote the poem? Poets write about things they care about, and her poem could mirror her feelings about the cult without specifically naming the secret cult. This would bring us onboard about what her ideals are and why she's doing what she does." I also said that dropping in some poetry there would vary the straightforward (unsaid, "pedestrian") rhythm of the prose.

The writer's response was, "Now I have to write a poem?" You can't really say, "Well, do you have a better solution?" (Although now that I think of it, I could say that kindly.)

Basically, with some of these writers I'm trying to help make their work LESS bad. I guess it's my own ego at play, but it's frustrating when they ignore solutions. A big part of it is, also, that bad writing really irritates me and I just want to see it fixed. Or at least made somewhat better [bold]: (

by Thanksreply 79July 15, 2021 10:20 PM

[quote] Well, most humans ask for advice and don't take it when given, that's just how we work

Solitary authors need to get their ideas out of their head and use others (paid or unpaid) as a sounding board.

The musical 'Candide' opened in 1956 with music by Bernstein and a script written Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, Stephen Sondheim, John Latouche, John Mauceri, John Wells, and Richard Wilbur.

I hear that billionaire Andrew Lloyd Webber has public 'sing-throughs' and workshops.

by Thanksreply 80July 15, 2021 10:35 PM

"Basically, with some of these writers I'm trying to help make their work LESS bad."

Well, that might be part of the problem? Okay, I said that the writers aren't going to take advice about changes unless there's a good level of trust there, and if they pick up on what you think of their work then they're going to feel defensive about their creation rather than trusting in you or your judgment. I don't know what you can do about that, because if their work is bad it's bad, and you know it.

I don't know if there's any way to convince humans that their pet project needs improvement, I mean, look at how hard it is to convince humans to get life-saving vaccines during a fucking plague. Humans spend a lot of time being stubborn, foolish, and defensive, and that's just the way things are.

by Thanksreply 81July 16, 2021 2:15 AM

Editors who are employed full-time avoid demented monomaniacs such as those in the attached thread.

Freelance and part-time editors who are scrounging for a living spend a lot of time (and waste a lot of time) dealing with monomaniacs such as these--

Offsite Link
by Thanksreply 82July 21, 2021 10:40 PM

Editors have to be PUNCTILIOUS and pedantic.

Virginia Woolf was bothered by a man who wrote letters after each of her books complaining about her incorrect descriptions of technical matters like shifting spanners, rotary engines, Oliver Onions and Berta Ruck.

by Thanksreply 83July 23, 2021 1:24 AM
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