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Authors: The editing process?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WaylonJennings, Oct 22, 2009.

  1. With a project due in just a few days :eek: I'm kind of curious about how the collaborative editing process will go. Every acknowledgments page I've ever read seems to thank the editor effusively for shaping the book. I'm just curious about how this has gone for the other authors on here. Extensive rewrites and overhauls? Mere tweaks? Obviously it depends on each book, but it'd be interesting to hear different authors tales of that stage of the process.
  2. Rusty Shackleford

    Rusty Shackleford Active Member

    Not trying to be smart, just didn't know if you were aware of its existence:

  3. Yeah. No one ever looks there. The Journalism Board is slow enough. God help the Writers' Workshop.
  4. Dave Kindred

    Dave Kindred Member

    Luck of the draw, Waylon....2 books I did for NY publishers, no editing of any kind...3d one, I was deep into what McPhee encourages as "digressions," only to have my editor X them out as "interruptives" -- I went from homicidal to suicidal before realizing that would not get me the rest of the advance, after which I studied the editor's X's (never explained beyond that "interruptive" repeatedly scrawled in the margin) and while I never made it to happy, I did reach content -- and, I admit, the book was better for it....good luck, and, however hard it is, don't take it personally....

    And with all those X's deleted, a bunch of rewriting, reshaping, recasting was called for...
  5. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member


    It ranges author to author, book to book. My first was a first draft cleaned up for typos and that was about it. My second was done with a crushing deadline (start to finish six weeks for 90,000 words) and it was a chapter by chapter submission, which was interesting and not the worst way to do things if need be. Lots of editor engagement on that one. The next couple had lots of editor assistance. One wanted me to pull three digressions and I gave him two, a good deal I thought. I do think it has something to do with time and proximity. If you have a decent lead time and an editor with a nice desk side manner, you might be able to come to some understanding in advance on how to go and what to expect. I don't know how many writer-editor relationships work that way but I've had a couple. (Another earlier project went sideways when a clueless guy basically wanted to rewrite everything.)

    I'm working with an editor right now who's story judgment is scary. Absolutely unerring. Really helpful. My problem is that maybe there was one or two calls I'd second-guess him on ... but he's right so often that I'm just presuming I'm wrong.

  6. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Based on my own experiences and those of commiserating friends and colleagues, I don't know what's worse: the editor who never really understood what the book was supposed to be and decides his vision is better than the author's, or the editor who has no vision at all.
  7. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Best thing I did: Demand two copies of the proof and hire an independent proofer. In this case I got off cheap because the independent proofer was my wife. I told her to look for typos and the like and I'd read to see what facts got F'ed up in the editing process (not a lot but enough that it would have been real bad had any made it in). My wife is an excellent proofer (as opposed to fact checker - she may be good at that, too). She'd help in the office when we had multiple section nights.

    The thing they did most often was not check for first references when they moved chunks of copy. I wrote a chapter about Bryan Randall and they restructured it. Probably a good call. But he showed up as "Randall" about eight times before you saw a "Bryan" in there.

    They also wanted to "beef up" my chapter on Michael Vick, so they added some information. It was incorrect information.

    Overall, the editing suggestions with regard to chapter structure and questions to ask and add were very good. I liked my editor a lot and wonder where he ended up after the Sports Publishing crash.

    But your name is on the cover. Proof the shit out of it, with help, after it is edited.
  8. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Mr 1,

    All good advice.

  9. Bump_Wills

    Bump_Wills Member

    Agree with the proof-the-bejeezus-out-of-it point. And then, once you've done that, let it go. I just received an advance copy of my debut novel, and once I found a small thing we missed (a period that should be a question mark), I put it down. I can't fix it now, and I don't want to know if there's anything else.

    Just got the edits back on an essay I wrote for an anthology, and most of them were small style details that I would have expected the editor to make unilaterally, but I appreciated being alerted to them. The one substantive suggestion he made improved the piece dramatically. God bless good editors.
  10. Small Town Guy

    Small Town Guy Well-Known Member

    Mine was great with big picture ideas, especially for a first-time author. Early, there was a lot of red on the word documents he'd send back, but as the book went on, he did hardly any of those changes. Not because he lost interest, but because he said I'd "gotten it."

    But he made some great suggestions for little things that ended up being big. Just something like using first or last names. There were a lot of casual, indepth scenes, where it seemed like calling them by their first name made sense and worked. Other times it didn't seem right. He said to just use last throughout and it worked out perfectly. And with all of his changes, he said I could ignore them if I wanted, as in the end, it is my book. But I knew enough to listen to him most of the time, though not always.

    And the proofing, yes, read very carefully. Found several things that the copy editor missed, and some changes they made that were actually mistakes.

    This was an old interview with Klosterman, about difference between book, magazine, newspaper editing:

  11. clutchcargo

    clutchcargo Active Member

    Any editor that gets heavily involved hands-on and wants to redo a bunch of stuff after you submit a complete manuscript isn't very good and is a disaster waiting to happen.

    A good editor really digs in at the very begining of the process when the outline is being torn apart and then put back together, then you do first 2-3 chapters and editor sets the tone with a lot of red ink there. from that point on, with your writing in a groove and following a good roadmap, there shouldn't be a whole lot of reinventing the wheel left to do.
  12. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Mr Cargo,

    You've laid out the ideal situation but it's often beyond the writer's control. My last book I had a last-minute switch of editor--the fellah who had signed me up (after we were completely in sync with on the previous project a year before) up and left the publishing company for another. Thus I wrote a hockey book, a tome way deep inside the game, for an editor, an Englishman, who had never seen a hockey game or been on skates. In Canada you generally have difficulty find someone with more than two degrees of separation from the NHL (e.g. my father used to repair the car of Ace Bailey, who had his head cracked open by Eddie Shore) yet I was working with an editor who did not know which street Maple Leaf Gardens is on (three subway stops to the north).

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