Thursday, March 25, 2010

Accepting Editing Advice

A writer once told me, after I edited her piece, "You're absolutely write in everything you said, but that's not the story I want to tell." She and I were at a loggerhead--I was trying to make her piece commercially viable, she was invested in the story as it was. In the end, it was moot: the story was never finished and became neither art nor product.

But she exercised an author's fundamental right--deciding what revisions feel right. This goes far beyond what your high-school English teacher offered. No one can argue against correcting misspelled words or bad grammar (unless writing in the vernacular), but what of potential improvements to pacing? Character development? Readability? Structure? Big changes that require huge revisions.

Focus on the two types of editing: Line Editing and Developmental Editing.

  1. Line Editing. Just that: editing a manuscript line by line, focusing on minutiae, from misplaced commas to factual errors, accidental changes and scene development. It's a thorough going-over, a beating of sorts, of a manuscript.
  2. Developmental Editing: The big picture: story arc, character interaction, chapter placement, even philosophical import.

Make sure any critique you receive improves the story you want to tell, both in what you're saying and how you're saying it. Maybe the piece becomes a work of art, maybe it becomes commercial trip, and maybe, with a good editor and a good author's eye, it becomes commercial art.

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