December 12, 2011

"There is but one art... omit."
 - Robert Louis Stevenson

I have been thinking about this very statement a lot lately in reference to how an Editor should ammend/cut an Author's work.

Of course, an Editor should never cut or change for the sake of cutting or changing. I know that full well. Personally, I am not the kind of Editor that immediately goes looking to strip a manuscript to its core in order to facilitate 'clarity' or 'correctness' but there are times that I do wonder if that is what is expected of me. (Positively or negatively, I am not entirely sure.... there seem to be some mixed ideas about Editors out there!)

There are lots of different arguments that I have had with myself about this, but I think I have settled on the fact that ultimately my job is to facilitate the Writer in creating the best product that the Author can. So if there are serious issues in character development, or structural flaws, etc., I should point them out and allow the writer to take that feedback and do with it what they will. Some will take it and bring back a MS that is stronger and more dynamic and I can start polishing again. Others will take the feedback on, but struggle to see ways around the issues. And then a few will simply dismiss the feedback in general.

It is a difficult thing, sometimes, to see a problem and then have to leave it alone for someone else to solve. (I am told it is one of the reasons that men struggle with upset women - who really just want to get everything inside their heads out in the open - as the natural male response is apparently to try to fix the problem somehow, not talk about it. )

But the discussion about how much to change is also dependent on being in a position to actually feel I can comment to the author about such things.

It is very important to me to have a respectful and open relationship with the Writers I work with. We need to understand where each other is coming from and, on some level at least, get on with each other. The more understanding there is that we are both human beings with feelings and a unique personality, the easier it will be for both of us to move forward and, together, make the work as strong as possible.

And whilst I can offer suggestions or a place to bounce ideas, the responsibility is essentially on the Writer to be open and willing to take as much as possible from the process both for this MS and future ones. We are all constantly learning and growing - making the effort to do it consciously in some situations just speeds the whole process up a little!

So, do I cut people's manuscripts? Yes, when I have to.
Do I change things in people's manuscripts? Yes, when I have to. (Only little things usually!)
Do I try to give them the tools to go back and make things better? All the time. And they do the same for me when they bring me better and better books to edit.

Hopefully, that is enough for us both.

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