26 April 2010

Editors and Editing

I am really, really lucky. I have a great editor, Grace.

I was a nonfiction editor for five years, so I have some idea of what it's like on the other side of the writing fence. Unfortunately, editors rarely receive the sort of recognition or appreciation that they deserve.

Their jobs are tough--they're supposed to point out everything that a writer's doing wrong. Few of us like to hear that. They get the thankless job of rejecting, correcting grammar, educating writers on the use of the semicolon, and responding patiently and repeatedly to plaintive emails from authors, each of whom has the most important manuscript in the entire world.

But editors also advocate for writers; they can and do make the difference between acceptance and rejection. They're an objective set of eyes on your manuscript, which is especially helpful if you've been working on it for so long that you can virtually recite it word for word. Plus, a good editor can make you a better writer.

I'm not talking about learning the correct way to punctuate dialogue--any decent paperback novel can show you how to do that. I'm talking about the more subtle aspects of writing. For me, it turned out to be point-of-view. Grace must have some hypersensitive point-of-view error detector, because I can't get away with a single sentence that even hints that POV has shifted.

Grace has made me a better writer by helping me to dissect the perspectives of my characters. No more diffuse scenes in which POV moves back and forth between hero and heroine diluting their thoughts and feelings. I'm slowly learning to remain focused on one character and convey her experience of the situation with greater intensity and emotional impact.

Now think about how your editor has helped you improve your writing. Write her a nice email and say thank you.

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