● believes a good book can be made better.
● raises the questions that provide objective guidance for the writer.
● is not afraid to say what he/she thinks about a manuscript, honestly but with sensitivity.
● has vigilant concern for every word, every sentence, every punctuation mark in the writer’s work.
● is a sounding board for the writer (according to the dictionary, a sound board reinforces tones by sympathetic vibration).
● adjusts to a writer, not vice versa.
● takes time. Good writing takes time; so does good editing.
● has an ear for the author’s style.
● is the most objective reader the book will have before it is published.
● knows that clear writing is essential for clear thinking.
● tries to second-guess the writer, but always in the writer’s terms.
● confirms the writer’s uniqueness.
● gently cuts through the writer’s hurt pride, subjective judgment, stubbornness, and just plain weariness.
● says, “I put this in to show you what I think is wrong, not to insist that what I want is right.”
● never says “I told you so.”
What Is Editing?
● Editing is the rigorous pursuit of perfection. It is an attempt to make writers draw on resources they never knew they could command.
● Editing is improving the improvable.
● Editing is finding the weak places and questioning them.
● Editing is fine tuning—scrutinizing words, sentences, and paragraphs to see whether the language works.
● Editing answers the questions the writer desperately wants answered:
– What is it like to read my book?
– Does the writing work?
– Where are the loose ends?
– Can I write?
● Editing is responding to what is present in a manuscript as well as what is absent.
● Editing is the subtle change that does not violate the author’s style but results in discernible improvement.
● Editing is discovering what the writer is trying to do and then helping him/her to do it a little better.
● Editing means saying such things as:
– I’m not convinced here.
– I don’t see how you got from there to here.
– The order here is confusing.
– This is where you lost me.
– I got bored here.
– You’ve already said this.
– This character is one dimensional.
– This illustration/anecdote does not work here/does not make the point.
– This beginning/ending is weak.
– What are you trying to say in this paragraph?
– Shouldn’t you introduce this before that?
– Is this the right word in this context?
– What’s the point here?
– Can you defend this statement?
● Editing always takes two: an editor who believes that a good book can be made better, and a writer who is serious about his/her craft.
This article was excerpted from MAI’s booklet, Servanthood and the Christian Editor, by Judith E. Markham. It highlights the work of an editor as serving the author, the reader, and the Lord. You’ll find this booklet and other resources for writing and publishing are available on MAI’s website.
Photo above courtesy freedigitalphotos.net