The brilliant people at Girl Friday Productions gave us some top tips on how to edit and also need some help from UK based editors.
Here’s what they have to say:
Ten Tricks of the Trade
- Look for the chronic problems. All writers have blind spots (and so do all editors). Once you’ve identified them, focus your attention there. It will make your job, as well as the author’s, easier.
- Edit with economy. This is not to suggest that you shouldn’t make all the edits you think are warranted. However, keep in mind that a sea of red on the page can get an author’s defenses up before they’ve seen all the good work you’ve done. This means surgically editing instead of striking and recasting whole sentences. Also, using Word’s comment tool to suggest rewrites rather than making them straight on the line can help soften the blow and keep the author in control.
- Respect the author’s style. This is one of the biggest concerns writers have about editing, that their style or voice will be lost during the editing process. You don’t want to rob an author of their voice, but you don’t want to allow confusing or just plain clunky writing in the name of “style.” It’s a fine balance to be sure. When offering suggested rewrites, make sure they adhere as closely to the author’s voice as possible.
- Always be tactful and constructive. Authors are taking a risk in putting their art out into the world, and as their first critical reader, your tactfulness, clarity, and enthusiasm for their work is essential to developing a productive relationship.
- Be specific and clear in your comments and queries. Clarity is essential to making an edit successful. Not only does it promote a smooth editorial process, but it helps guarantee that your message is received. Try to avoid more general comments such as “awkward,” and rather point out the specific error or errors.
- Edit with the mindset of the first critical reader. In other words, shift your perspective from finding all the errors and issues to advocating for the reader—telescoping for the writer all the joy, excitement, and beauty a reader will find in their work, as well as any points of confusion, missed opportunities, or places where certain characters or narrative points could be better drawn or delineated.
- Invite the conversation and propose solutions. Editing is nothing if not a conversation and collaborative process. And no editor is worth their salt if they don’t propose solutions and offer advice on how to fix what’s wrong.
- Educate your author on editing vs. collaboration. Editors can do a great deal to restructure and polish a novel, short story, or memoir. They cannot make a bad writer into a good one. A ghostwriter on the other hand…
- Avoid archetypes. Even Darth Vader had a softer side. Don’t let your writer create characters that are one-dimensionally evil (or good). This goes double for memoir.
- Help create realistic dialogue. Characters, like people, don’t always use good grammar. However, they also rarely speak in meaningful soliloquies that conveniently further the plot! And don’t forget to educate on the proper use of dialog tags.
GFP finds ourselves in need of some freelance editorial help in the UK. Fiction editors—copyeditors and proofreaders—wanted. Genre fiction, with emphasis on thrillers and historical fiction, as well as women’s fiction. You need to be familiar with New Hart’s Rules and OED, and willing to create solid style sheets and detailed timelines and character lists. Interested applicants should send their CV and a list of published works and publisher clients to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “UK applicant” in the subject line.