Booking Through Thursday: Playing Editor

Playing Editor March 13, 2008

Filed under: WordPress — –Deb @ 1:13 am 

btt button

Suggested by John :

How about a chance to play editor-in-chief? Fill in the blanks:

__________ would have been a much better book if ______________________.



In order to answer this question, it’s important to understand what an editor actually does..  I thought I knew, but just to be sure I looked it up.  

Typically, an editor does a lot of reading, obviously.  Their job includes everything from looking for errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar (copy editing), to character development, plot structure and clarity (substantive editing).  They also work at spotting cliched phrases, over-used words, and the overall organization of a story. Fine tuning phrases and removing redundant words can make a huge difference in the final product.

What an editor should NOT do is impose their own voice or point of view over the author’s. An editor should be like Switzerland – totally nuetral, allowing the author’s unique style to shine through, while enhancing and clarifying the text.

Ok, sounds like a tough job.  I guess I’ve been reading a lot of books lately that have benefitted from great editing because I can’t think of any that I would want to change in that way.  

The only exception would be some kids books I’ve been reading with my girls.  We make a game out of counting the number of times the characters in the Goosebumps series “murmur” something.  Seems every other page says, “Look at that!” she murmured.  We dissolve into giggles and get out the notebook that we use to keep track of how many murmurs there are per book.  It’s silly fun.

I remember reading Middlesex last summer and thinking that it would benefit from a liberal dose of editing, but I couldn’t give you specifics all these months later.  I just remember thinking the middle section was way too long and made the book much longer than it needed to be (544 pages-pushing the limits of my patience!). 

What books do you think would benefit from editing?



8 Responses

  1. Thanks for asking! I think about this question a lot, probably because I spent 15 years telling high schoolers to edit, edit, edit! 🙂

    I recently read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers and enjoyed it, but I think it should have been 50 pages shorter — he seemed to lose his focus in the middle when he switched from his adventures with Topher to his misadventures with Might.

    Still a good read, though!

  2. I appreciate that you outlined what an editor actually does. I don’t think I could ever take on this task, or presume to suggest how someone rewrite their book, even if I did have issues with parts of it. What if the rest of the world loves it?

  3. Well, if we’re talking about the orthographical aspects of editing then the copy I have of Robin Hobb’s ‘Shaman’s Crossing’ should never have been let out into the bookshops. My ‘favourite’ error was a possessive apostrophe that had slipped and become a comma. It took me three reads to realise what had happened and make sense of the sentence.

  4. Oh, no! I loved Middlesex, every word. =)

  5. Nowadays editors do suggest changes which cater to the masses!

    For example, tell me who wants to read a speech that went more 20 pages in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand? And I did like the book after skipping it!

  6. The repetitive use of the same word gets annoying. I like your answer though, because you’re not changing anything structurally or story-wise. Looks like you’d be a good editor. 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: