BY NANCY KAY CLARK
CommuterLit editor & publisher
Copyright is held by the author.
LATELY, I’VE been thinking about the different but complementary skills of writing and editing. When you’re writing (particularly a first draft), you have to put your inner critic aside and fully immerse yourself in story and characters, freeing your imagination to wander.
When you edit, you have to step outside your story and characters and look at them with a critical eye. This is not say you allow your inner critic to utterly destroy your self-confidence and stop you from completing your writing projects. I’m speaking more of your inner editor, who ideally has a more neutral mindset than that nasty critic.
But there’s not just one type of editor. Editorial tasks encompass everything from the macro (looking at plot, structure, theme) to the micro (looking at paragraph placement, sentence structure and word choice), as well as the technical skills of copy editor and proofreader.
When people talk about hiring a book editor, I believe they’re mostly thinking about copy editing or proofreading. These are important stages that you should never skip when preparing a manuscript for publication. And yes, those skills would be good for every writer to develop. But I’m more interested in honing my editing skills on the macro level. Because what trips me up often as a writer, after completing my typical sloppy first draft, are larger editorial questions that veer into the territory of publishing and marketing as well:
1. What do I want to say or convey in my story?
2. Who am I writing my story for? Who’s going to read it?
3. Is it interesting enough? Does it offer a new twist, or perspective? Is it worth telling?
4. Is it too big or too small for the format and length I’m working in?
5. Am I writing in the right genre? Am I straddling genres?
6. Can I sustain interest in the story over the long haul?
7. Is it my story to tell?
8. Am I writing the story from the right perspective? Do I have the right protagonist?
9. Is the plot too simple or too complicated?
If I don’t have these fundamentals sorted out (as well as sound structure, plot and character development), no amount of copy editing or proofreading will make my story publishable, and I’m just wasting my time.
What editorial skills would you like to hone? Where in the rewriting process does your inner editor fail you? I’d be interested in finding out. Leave a comment below.
Gail Copeland has just published Allegiance, a historical fiction novel and sequel to her first novel, Price of Loyalty. The novel is set in Upper Canada during the war of 1812.
Mark Thomas has published an “Alternate” short story collection, A Robot, a Ghost and an Alien Walk into a Bar.