Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I Need an Editor; So Do You

This is a truism for every writer, ever. You need an editor; I need an editor. There was an article I read years ago about how Stephen King needed an editor (an awesome article I wish I was not too lazy to look up). Now, the main reason I'm writing this is because, as I was working over the next few pages of my page-a-day challenge, I realized that my writing is choppy, unfocused and just plain bad.

You know what would help that? An editor. It will help almost any piece of writing to put it in front of critical eyes to have them look at it and tell you it stinks.

I think everyone hears this in whatever writing class they take. Almost every self-help writing book I've read tells you about the importance of second eyes. I could belabor the point, but how do you find a good editor and benefit from that editor?

First, do your best to write clean prose. Get rid of typos, clean up your formatting. Package your writing neatly. The less an editor has to red line your work, the more they can focus on the things that will help you more than subject-verb agreement.

Second, get someone to read and edit your work who likes the kind of thing you wrote. This is something I read in C.S. Lewis' "On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature," which made sense as soon as I read it. Like with movie reviews, you try and find a movie critic who has a similar taste to you. There's no point in getting someone who reads hard sci-fi to review your alternative history about if George Washington were secretly a woman. Also, please don't ever write that.

Third, find someone who is comfortable enough (or hates you enough) to tear into your writing. You want someone who will peer into the holes in your fiction or rip holes in your argument in non-fiction. Especially with non-fiction. It is one of the things that worries me when I write my little history blurbs here, that an error will creep into my writing and, since I'm only half-hearted in my own quality control here, I will miss it.

Fourth, you need to find someone who is comfortable working in the same way you are. Do you draft in long hand? Find someone who can read your chicken scratch. If you type it all, make sure someone is willing to work on the screen with you. You need to adapt to them, not the other way around. Print out papers for someone who likes hard copy, type it up if they want it digital. (Also, if you write long hand, you should probably type it up anyway, just because most writing gets better when you transfer it from one medium to another and you get the chance to hear it in your head and fix what you don't like.)

I'm not sure what inspired me to ramble on about editing, but, there you have it.



The New York Times also needs an editor:

"On Monday night, officials involved in her hiring at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Texas and the University of Houston Law Center all said that she was hired because she was an outstanding teacher, and that her lineage was either not discussed or not a factor."

So, if her lineage was not discussed, it was a factor. If it was a factor, it was not discussed. NYT: embrace the beauty of and. What a sloppy paraphrase.

1 comment:

  1. I think the NYT sentence is correct.


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