The Joy of Editing

Yes, I spent Valentine’s Day at my computer editing. No, I don’t feel guilty about this. My husband likes to see me on an editor’s high. I used all my obsessive energy to nail the italics for a tricky bit of interior monologue. My reward? The author wrote to thank me for saving his lines and not being a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” editor.

While some editors try to “Do No Harm,” other editors believe in “Kill Your Darlings.” In between these two is the magical realm of helping without hurting. I believe the magic comes from listening carefully to the author’s voice, and bringing that voice forward.

A good editor is like a good doctor. Good doctors listen and ask questions. Bad doctors make assumptions. I find the joy of editing comes when I can listen, support, and strengthen the story rather than change it to impose my will upon it. Sure, I’ve read plenty of books that needed a stronger editorial hand, and would likely have been diagnosed for amputation by a more vigorous editor. But “kill your darlings” is the wrong attitude. Both the editor that is too soft and the editor that is too aggressive are not listening to what the book is trying to say. If you respect the best intentions of a story, you will be true to the internal skeleton and make each piece function properly. Each line carries a message that needs careful placement to achieve balance.

I’m off now to do more editing. We’re busy polishing an exciting Issue Two with our graphic designer, and it’s going to be really really good. (And no, I’m not going to delete one of those adverbs. ‘Cause it’s really really good.)

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