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Old 08-27-2012, 02:46 PM   #16
HarryT
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Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
Do note that he doesn't really say that editing is optional
That's exactly what he says:

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But there is one area where both sides are in complete agreement. That is the absolute, irrefutable necessity of having any and all writing vetted by an honest to goodness editor. And who could argue with that, you ask? ... I can!
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Old 08-27-2012, 05:03 PM   #17
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Not sure what type of editor you're talking about, but a copy-editor sorts out all your weird punctuation and lack of cohesion and they don't tend to cost much. It's the ones that help with story structure (don't know what they are called) that are prohibitively expensive for DIY writers.

I used to think I don't need one, being able to copy-edit other people's work myself, until someone gave me a free trial. I got a bit of a shock

If you can't afford anything at all, there's always this but don't expect magic from a computer program.

http://prowritingaid.com/Free-Editing-Software.aspx
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Old 08-27-2012, 05:40 PM   #18
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To say something isn't absolute isn't quite the same as saying it is optional.
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Old 08-27-2012, 05:47 PM   #19
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I think the article makes many valid points. I do think having your story proof read or perhaps edited by a professional is useful.

But just because someone calls themselves an "editor" doesn't mean they are a good one. There is no supervised certification program to become an editor.

Publishers pressured Ursula K LeGuin to write books more like the Harry Potter, so if your editor starts suggesting you add owls and magical friends, watch out.

This shouldn't be a problem with professional editors who are not tied to a publishing house. And since they are no longer gatekeepers to getting published, their suggestions don't have to all be acted on.
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Old 08-27-2012, 08:56 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
That's exactly what he says:
And further on he points out that *somebody* has to do the editing. Editors may be optional for self-publishers but editing isn't.
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Old 08-27-2012, 09:33 PM   #21
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In the "golden age" of yore, the legendary editors worked *with* the writers to help them hone their craft, refine their voice . . .
Being contrary by nature, your post reminded me of a counter-example, summarized in the second half of this book review:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/bo...pagewanted=all

By the way, the reason I know about this review is that Sam Tanenhaus listed it among his favorites.

I suspect that most outstanding writers need an excellent editor -- and that it has never been easy to find one.
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Old 08-27-2012, 10:32 PM   #22
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And further on he points out that *somebody* has to do the editing. Editors may be optional for self-publishers but editing isn't.
Maybe he needs a good editor.
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Old 08-28-2012, 08:17 AM   #23
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So how and where did the editors learn the necessary skills? And couldn't authors learn them also? How many classic novels and plays from Shakespeare on never had an editor? When in the history of publishing did having an editor become common and even required? Surely it wasn't always the case?
It isn't that writers cannot learn the skills, it is that even with the skills, a writer who edits his/her own work cannot get the necessary distance from the work to the job at the same skill level that an independent professional editor can. It is very difficult to get past seeing what you expect to see because of familiarity with the work.

It is also true that there are a handful of writers who quite capably edit their own work. They are the exception, not the rule.

As for Shakespeare, no one really knows whether he had an editor.

Having an editor became common and required as more authors sought to gain fame and fortune as writers. When only the very cream of writers wrote and tried to sell their work, perhaps editors weren't required (there is no way to know whether they were commonly used, however), but as lesser writers tried to earn a living from their writing, the use of editors became more common and mandatory.

Probably the requirement came about when publishing companies started offering advances. It was a way to help guarantee a return on investment.
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Old 08-28-2012, 08:28 AM   #24
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But just because someone calls themselves an "editor" doesn't mean they are a good one. There is no supervised certification program to become an editor.
Very true except that in some countries there are certification programs; but even then, it is no guarantee.

I have been a professional editor for more than 28 years and I have taught colleagues the ins and outs of editing, yet even I have difficulty at times in determining in advance how good or bad a particular editor is.

When choosing an editor, the first hurdle for an author is knowing exactly what services are wanted. Some editors are better at developmental editing and others at copyediting. Too often I have spoken with authors who are unclear about what services they want, making it hard to guide them. For a simple discussion of the two types of editors, see my blog post, Editor, Editor, Everywhere an Editor.
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Old 08-28-2012, 08:32 AM   #25
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As for Shakespeare, no one really knows whether he had an editor.
Shakespeare may not have had an editor, but he had an audience. If something wasn't working, wasn't clear, wasn't funny he knew pretty quickly.
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Old 08-28-2012, 08:43 AM   #26
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Shakespeare may not have had an editor, but he had an audience. If something wasn't working, wasn't clear, wasn't funny he knew pretty quickly.
Shakespeare started out as the "house playwright" for the Lord Chamberlain's Men, so he would certainly have been given jobs like "We're putting on that old thing of Thomas Kyd's next week, Will. We need an extra scene to liven up the end of the first act."
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Old 08-28-2012, 05:49 PM   #27
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Being contrary by nature, your post reminded me of a counter-example, summarized in the second half of this book review:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/bo...pagewanted=all

By the way, the reason I know about this review is that Sam Tanenhaus listed it among his favorites.

I suspect that most outstanding writers need an excellent editor -- and that it has never been easy to find one.
This thread has been very interesting. In addition to the comments here I followed your link to the Stephen King review. What King has to say about the way Raymond Carver's work was edited goes to the heart of this discussion. In King's view Carver's editor rewrote his work rather than editing it.

There is a link in the Times piece to a second, brief article by the Times editors in which they quote what King thinks an editor should do. I don't know how much of a copyrighted article can be quoted in a forum post so I'll just give the link to that second Times piece.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/bo...tml?ref=review
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Old 08-29-2012, 07:00 AM   #28
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There is a link in the Times piece to a second, brief article by the Times editors in which they quote what King thinks an editor should do. I don't know how much of a copyrighted article can be quoted in a forum post so I'll just give the link to that second Times piece.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/bo...tml?ref=review
I think King has it right about what an editor is supposed to do.
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Old 08-29-2012, 01:35 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by mr ploppy View Post
It's the ones that help with story structure (don't know what they are called) that are prohibitively expensive for DIY writers
Various terms used, but most often 'developmental editor'.

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But just because someone calls themselves an "editor" doesn't mean they are a good one. There is no supervised certification program to become an editor.
Completely true, and so it's caveat emptor.

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Originally Posted by ebusinesstutor View Post
Publishers pressured Ursula K LeGuin to write books more like the Harry Potter, so if your editor starts suggesting you add owls and magical friends, watch out.
That sort of suggestion would really be beyond the remit of most editors, even developmental editors. It usually the prerogative of a commissioning editor, who's a lot higher up the pecking order!

I think it's quite arrogant of a writer to assume they don't need an editor (by which I mean copyeditor at the very least). No-one is perfect, and as others have pointed out if you've been working on a piece for weeks or months, you're just simply too close to it to see its weaknesses. Surely it's better to have someone else correct those before unleashing it on a public who will be far less nice to you than your editor will?
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Old 08-29-2012, 04:53 PM   #30
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So where do some of us on shoestring budgets get the money to hire a pro editor? Not all of us can shell out hundreds of dollars on a whim.
I agree that teh603 was a little negative calling editing a whim, but she has a point (I'm assuming it's a she based on the avatar). The editor, whether it's a copy editor or a developmental editor or both, is a necessary part of the mainstream publishing process, and, as others have pointed out, almost certainly takes the part of the publisher over the author.

But with more and more books, both pbooks and ebooks being published each year, if you don't have the mainstream publishing companies behind you, you're going to be very lucky indeed if you make any money. My first book has made me less than $50. To be sure it could almost certainly have been marginally improved by a copy editor, but I don't think it was a bad book. Certainly it was a lot better book than many indy books I've bought. But it was competing with, I think the figure two years ago was 300000 new books a year, which means that you have to be VERY lucky to get any sales.

I'm not expecting much more from my second book, which is light years better than the first in many ways. So I, like many others, are definitely not doing it for the money. Oh, maybe one dreams of a kind of Cinderella story from time to time, but one wakes up again the next morning. And the several hundred dollars even a copy editor would charge are just not in an indy writer's real world, unless (s)he's independently wealthy.

So I think we're going to see a two tier market for books. The mainstream market, professionally edited, where more and more, the author will lose control over his creation, just as film scriptwriters have done. And the indy market, probably not even copy-edited, except maybe by friends. And anyone who buys an indy book knows this, and accepts the typos, the clumsily constructed sentences, and forgives the author as long as the story is good.

So editors, concentrate on the mainstream market. You're not going to make any more money from us indy writers than we make ourselves.
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