Monday, July 30, 2007

On editing

I loved all of the comments from my post last Monday, and thanks to everyone who linked to the post. If you haven't commented yet, please do! It was fascinating to read the different reactions you have to editorial letters, but overall, I feel safe in feeling that authors want *good* input from editors.

A few people forwarded this Salon.com article to me on editing that I found interesting--it's about magazine editing, but I think still applicable to books. An excerpt:
To people not in the business, editing is a mysterious thing...Many times over the past 20 years, people have asked me, "What exactly does an editor do?"

It's not an easy question to answer. Editors are craftsmen, ghosts, psychiatrists, bullies, sparring partners, experts, enablers, ignoramuses, translators, writers, goalies, friends, foremen, wimps, ditch diggers, mind readers, coaches, bomb throwers, muses and spittoons -- sometimes all while working on the same piece.

Read the whole article here.

When I'm asked what I do at parties or elsewhere, I answer "I'm a children's book editor," and the conversation oftentimes ends with the other person saying, "Wow, that's cool!" or "Oh, interesting," and then not knowing what more to say. But occasionally it starts a whole conversation about what being an editor entails, usually starting when the person says, "Oh, I could never do that, I'm horrible at grammar" to which I say, "Yeah, I am, too." For some reason, many people assume that when I say I'm a children's book editor, I actually write (or want to write) children's book. "No, I don't write, I'm an editor."

It is truly a mysterious thing for those not in the business. I assume that most (if not all) of the readers of this blog are in the business is some way, so I won't go into more detail regarding what a children's book editor actually does, but if anyone would like me to go through my duties in a future post, I'd be happy to oblige. But briefly, as I described it once on a panel discussion, I'm basically a project manager, and I will say that I completely agree with "the editor should be invisible" and the "asking questions" model.

Here's a wrap-up of some of my other posts on editing:
How I edit
Young 'uns
Writing versus Editing
How do I know I'm a good editor?
Friendship in work
Give credit where credit is due?
Editing styles and Comic Con
And what makes me so qualified to edit children's books?

And a wonderfully informative post from our guest blogger of what an editor at a packager does:
What's with these packaged books?

In other news, I finally finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this weekend. Thanks to Anna for her patience in letting me silently tear through the last 100 pages or so while she was cooking us dinner. And for cheerfully asking me how it ended and letting me "spoil" it for her, because of course I was dying to talk about it. We wondered this weekend if anything like the publication of this last HP book would ever happen again, if ever the publication of one book would be so widely heralded and eagerly awaited, crossing gender and age lines. Hard to imagine it happening again, but I hope it does.

4 comments:

cloudscome said...

Thanks for this post. It's really helpful to me and I am glad to have the links to your other editor posts. I have so much to learn!

I finished DH over the weekend. It was great but I have some questions not yet answered. It is great to have so many people to read/talk with about it!

stacy said...

I've been meaning to blog about that article since I saw it last week, myself. But a little rollerblading accident kind of got in the way. :) Thanks for blogging about it, and I'll try to post my own thoughts on it sometime this week.

Anonymous said...

that was a really nice article to read. especially right after getting one of those manuscript-crushing letters from an editor that you *know* is going to make your book the best friggin book on the planet, but, at the same time, makes you feel like an utter piece of poo. we're all just a bunch of chiquitas trying to say something, I guess. thank god for editors who help us sound less stupid in the process.

Emily Jiang said...

Thanks, Alvina, for providing and writing such great editing resources!