Wednesday, July 8, 2015

DOES AN EDITOR NEED AN EDITOR? - my last post (maybe) - but see note below

Interesting question. Like many interesting questions, it has several answers. The short answer is: it depends. The long answer is that it depends on the work, its purpose, and its importance. It also depends on what one means by “editor”.

For example, I don’t often seek advice for any post here before I publish it. When I do, it’s usually because of matters of taste, or with querulous questions like “does it make sense?” when it no longer makes sense to me because I’ve been scrabbling around with it for too long.

An eagle-eyed friend lurks, thank goodness, to pounce on spelling or grammar mistakes – I can be careless. The friend acts as proof-reader. But the blog is important only to me. It’s a personal indulgence, a place for me, as a writer, to experiment. If I make mistakes nobody suffers except me. I have welcomed comments and even criticism from readers but this rarely happened. Hallo-o-o – is anybody out there …?

I am both writer and editor. Both roles are self-assigned: I have no diplomas, attended no courses (but taught many), there are no letters after my name. I write because I want to, and read and even edit other people’s writing because they ask me to do it. But – and it’s a big but – it is necessary to make sure what exactly they are expecting me to do. Editing is a wide field. It can mean simply proof-reading. It can mean checking grammar, sentences, punctuation, characterisation, plot development, internal logic, narrative structure and all the other elements that make a story or a book a cohesive whole. And people can get really ratty if they don’t like, or agree with, the assessment. As Somerset Maugham said, “people ask you for criticism but they only want praise”.

Most of my writing is non-fiction. And it is possible to write like a writer, and then read, with editorial pen in hand, as an editor. But fiction is another matter. And in today’s world of e-books, boutique publishers and do-it-yourselfers, the problem most face is not finding writers to write, printers to print and editors to edit. The problem is quality control.

So, the answer to the question posed above is yes, sometimes editors need editors, especially for something as important as a novel. If I ever get “The Diplomatic Corpse” finished I will be looking for someone to cast a beady and critical eye over it before I send it out into the world. 

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I had decided to discontinue this blog (after 237 posts) and get down to some less self-indulgent writing. The break has been refreshing, but I am changing gear again and might just return to this page - perhaps with a change of focus. As they say - watch this space!

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