An article by Lee Boudreaux, a young editor who recently received her own imprint at Little Brown, explains the discipline of editing with striking clarity.
The material is not long, and I suggest that it’s worth any writer’s time to read. Especially anyone who is serious about becoming published or staying published–which I imagine encompasses everyone reading my hogwash. Ms. Boudreaux succinctly covers a myriad of important issues. Yet I find a single line emblematic of what professional editing entails as a discipline. She says, “The editing process is asking every question that occurs to you and reading the manuscript as carefully as anyone is ever going to read it.”
“You” of course refers to the editor. It’s why it can drive any writer bonkers when a seemingly insignificant issue elicits a couple-of-hundred-word exegesis. I try to provide as much rationale as I can when I make an editing suggestion. I’m not referring to punctuation or layout or basic syntax. This is what I pay my highly skilled copyeditor, Martha Moffett to deal with. My work, and why I often spend 150 to 200 hours on an 80,000- to 100,000-word draft, is to assure a narrative’s transitioning and the “global” continuity in the storylines.
Along with this I have to look at the strength of the plot, the depth of the characterizations, and character dimension. Then there’s the normal “stuff” I generally write out in detail. By my doing this, the author can have an idea of the way a story element might read. It’s up to the writer to decide if my rhetoric is a good fit or if it should be revised. Either way I’ve achieved my goal, which is to get the creator of the narrative to consider modifying the text. In reality, this is all any editor can ask.