The World According to ChickLitGurrl™

Where the WORD is IT :: Editorial/Writing Assistance offered by author, editor, educator Shōn Bacon

What is your EDITING PHILOSOPHY? November 21, 2008

Filed under: chicklitgurrl,the writing life,writings — Shon @ 5:29 pm
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I was going to initially titled this, “What type of editing do you do?”

But then I realized that I wasn’t looking for answers like substantive editing or copy editing or proofreading.

I wanted to know about your belief system in regards to editing.  What do you hope to PROVIDE to the client, essentially.

A few days ago, I began to think about this.  This year, I have edited SO many manuscripts, and I began to wonder, “Why did these people pick ME to trust with their baby?”  Many of them came by recommendation, so somewhere out there, there are satisfied customers that think enough about what I do to recommend my talents to other writers.

So, I’ll ask myself, “What is my editing philosophy?”

My short answer:  To help writers become better at the craft of writing.

My longer answer:  Yes, I want clients to be happy with the results of my edits.  I want them to see that I cared about grammar and mechanics. That I cared about rhythm and pacing.  That I cared about character development.  That I cared about the overall story development.  I want them to feel as if their baby – which they just delivered – was made shiny and beautiful.  The same baby they birthed – but clean.

However, when I edit, I do try to teach, too.  I explain why I make the changes I do.  Sometimes, I direct writers to books to help hone their skills.

I liken how I edit to how I teach.  If a student’s essay is riddled with fragments, I don’t say, “You have fragments” and immediately fix them.  I sit and discuss what fragments are, I explain how to fix them, and then I ask the student to tell me how he/she would fix the error.  This is how they learn to become better writers of academic essays.

In editing, I do the changes – after all, that’s what I’m paid to do; however, I also explain how I fixed the issues and why so that at the end of an editing experience, a writer might say, “Thank you for making my book better and making me a better writer.  I know my next work will be better than this one because you helped me understand the craft of writing.”

So, what is YOUR editing philosophy?


9 Responses to “What is your EDITING PHILOSOPHY?”

  1. I’d be curious to hear how your writers respond to your edits. Not everyone wants someone to teach them. They want the editor to say, “I inserted a missing period on p. 37, and then I was done. Perfect job!”

    If they argue with you, what do you tell them?

    I don’t write books, but if I did, I’d want someone with your editing philosophy.

  2. Lisa Says:

    This is a wonderful post. I also try to teach when I edit. It’s hard, though, for some people to communicate effectively. What I try to impart is that it’s about making a connection with your audience: it’s not always about what you want to say, but what you want people to hear. Writing isn’t always about bestowing knowledge, it’s about forging philosophical bonds with people, so that they open their minds to new ideas. Sometimes those ideas evolve from the reading process itself, rather than reflecting the writer’s beliefs! And that’s okay.

  3. I haven’t done any editing yet, so I don’t have a philosophy just yet, but I love the fact that you don’t just correct errors but you help author’s become better writers. I think you may have just gotten yourself a new client 😉

    Monica Marie Jones

  4. […] had an interesting post on her blog today. She posted her editing philosophy and asked about the editing philosophies of those in her […]

  5. I believe that every editor has a philosophy, a set of kind of guiding beliefs about what the job of editing entails, why it is important, and what the purpose of the job is.

    For some who work for authors wanting to have their work professionally edited before it is submitted, or for those who work for companies owned and managed by someone else, the desired result of the editing process is at least somewhat dictated by entities other than the editor. I would think that the question of who is paying for the editing would impact upon the philosophy of the editor at least to some degree.

    Since I edit for Black Velvet Seductions, a company that I founded and own, my philosophy of editing is one that I have developed over the years. Since the pieces that I edit are those which have been contracted for publication I see the people I work for as those who buy the books that we publish. I believe that my first responsibility is to those readers. When I edit I am making or suggesting the changes that I think I will improve the book and make it a stronger read for the reader.

    That my first responsibility is to my readers doesn’t mean that I don’t also care about authors. For authors books are a labor of love and they usually have a strong feeling about what the theme is and what they want to communicate. I do not want to change an author’s message during the editing process. I want to show them how to make their message stronger, how to make it resonate more with their reader. For this reason most of the editing that I do is in helping authors to integrate deep point of view which works to make the experiences of the character as rich and multi-dimensional as possible so that they will resonate with the reader.

    You sum up your philosophy as wanting to help writers become better at writing. That is a big part of my editing philosophy too. Much of what I do both in my editing chair and out of it is directed at helping authors become better at the writing craft.

    I see the task of editing as one that is focused on two things, giving the reader the best book the author can create, and helping the writer to craft that book in the strongest way possible.

    You mentioned seeing the editing process as a teaching opportunity as well. I know many editors simply make the changes when they edit. While I do make some small changes to punctuation and grammar, most of the time I make notes on the manuscript about ways that the author can make the story stronger. About 99% of these have to do with deep point of view and showing the character’s experiences through his or her perceptions of the events as they unfold.

    I guess if I were to sum up my editing philosophy it would be that I seek to help authors create the strongest books they can, to create books that will allow the reader to share a vicarious experience through the characters. I also want to teach authors so that they gain an understanding of deep point of view and other aspects of the craft of writing so that they can integrate them into their own work.

  6. Hey there, Susan.

    I do try to think of the client, too. A LOT of my clients are fairly new to the writing game, so they tell me up front, “I need a LOT of help!” As a result, I do more “teaching” style editing than I might to someone who has been around for a while, knows some things, and just want their manuscript cleaned up. I’ve never had a client make a comment about how I edit. In fact, I tend to get clients who come back and ask, “OK, you said THIS about this section of the story – what suggestions/ideas do you have?” or “Why did you say that?” because they are looking for explanation to understand.

  7. Lisa,

    Great response, 🙂 It IS hard for some people to communicate effectively – and that even includes some editors in trying to express what they did to a manuscript and why.

  8. Aww, thanks for the comment, Monica, 🙂

  9. Thanks for your response, Laurie…I’m gonna copy/paste my response to it here: Great post! And even though I don’t edit for my own pub house like you, the READER is very important in the editing process. I try to think like “every reader” and not Shon Bacon when I edit because I want the book to produce the most sales for the client.

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