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Thoughts on Editing . . .

Had a very interesting conversation with my writing sensei this evening. He’s been an editor in NY publishing (both in-house and freelance) as long as I’ve known him. We were discussing editing since I’d just gotten back the second round of edits for Skin the Cat and he mentioned some of his entertaining experiences with authors over the years.

Then, I came to a realization that I hadn’t even considered.

I am not a normal writer.

(Cue the peanut gallery – “We already knew that.”)

Yeah, yeah, hear me out. See, maybe it’s because my sensei was my first editor and he trained me well, but I love a good thorough edit (both content and copy editing). I want the editor to spot those continuity errors that keep a reader from winging a book across a room. I want the editor to let me know if I’m referencing a movie that came out three years later than I said it came out (although, if I let that happen, shame on me). I want an editor to remind me when I forget to have a person actually remember to turn around before addressing someone who just came into a room, unless I explain *why* my character would know that character entered (familiar footsteps, specific perfume, etc.).

I know what the story is supposed to say. After all, it came out of my head. However, that’s the problem. I *know* what’s coming, why things are happening, what’s happening off-screen. BUT the reader doesn’t. I have to tell them, or better show them.

That’s where an editor really earns their money—help protect me from me.

Apparently, that’s not what most editors run into. I’ve talked to other editors at conventions and the general consensus is too many authors would prefer not to be edited. It’s seen as an inconvenience at best and an offense at worst to be called out if they make a mistake of fact. STET seems to be their immediate response to an edit rather than seeing if maybe the edit makes sense.

If an author were to say their character went to see Casablanca on opening night in 1952, it would immediately make me want to see what other errors the writer made instead of *reading* their book. I would certainly expect an editor to smack me upside the head if I did something that blatantly wrong. Apparently, I’m not like the typical author.

Maybe it’s because I started out as a journalist, where if you can’t be edited, you aren’t going to work (or at least that’s how it was in the 1970s/80s). Maybe it’s because I work as a technical writer/editor myself, so I edit people’s work to make it fit the template and standards of my clients. Maybe it’s because I know I’m not God’s gift to writing, but I’m trying my damnedest to get there.

I like editors and I like edits.

Just call me weird. *grin*

(Oh, by the way, I finished reviewing my edits on Skin the Cat and got the corrections back to my editor. *grin*)

Originally published at Richard C. White. Please leave any comments there.

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