Editing

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I have been a writer for over thirty years.  I love writing, whether fiction, poetry, or nonfiction.

I hold a Master’s degree in Language Arts education. I have taught creative writing.  I love helping other writers, whether brainstorming, coaching, proofreading, or editing.  I can provide you a wealth of knowledge to help you polish your craft.

I happen to believe that writing (fiction, poetry, nonfiction) is among Humanity’s most important accomplishments, one of the means by which we teach and reinforce our values and stay strong in a sometimes harsh and lonely world.  Nonfiction informs us about our world, and its information must be presented in an organized, logical manner.  Even an essay can be creative.  Poetry is like dancing with words.  Stories are Life’s instruction manuals. Creative writing supports thousands of livelihoods, bringing us together, inspiring reading and further imagination.

If you are a writer like me, then you know that writing matters, and writing in your own best way possible matters too, or your writing won’t accomplish its purposes.  That is probably why you are reading this page.  So let’s talk about editing.

What is editing?  Editing is not merely to catch mistakes of grammar and punctuation, though it does that.  Editing is to find better ways to say things, to bring one’s writing up a notch from, “Wow, that’s a good idea,” to “Damn, that’s said well.”  Why not make sure every line of your work is the best it can be?

The fiction editor starts by asking and answering these questions:

1. Is there a worthwhile story here?

2. Does the work progress logically with introduction, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution?  Does it make sense?

Sometimes a writer will forget to write a detail or a passage necessary for the reader to understand what is happening or why.  The editor will make sure the writer goes back and provides it.  The editor will also point out logical inconsistencies in what is written, to make sure everything lines up.  Continuity, logic, voice, character, plot structure, and every detail are the responsibility of the editor, who has to look at the whole as well as its parts.  If something wrong reaches the public, that’s the editor’s responsibility.  The editor plays goalie for the author, to make sure it all works.  The editor must go over every sentence, every word, every punctuation mark in a manuscript to make sure not only that it is grammatically correct but that it suits the style of the story and its narrator.

3. Are the characters understandable and interesting?

The editor looks to see the work’s potential then helps the writer reach it.

Not everyone is good at this, but it is something I enjoy doing.

My acquaintance writer and editor Liz Prato described the duties of an editor thus:

A good editor is working on a couple of different levels, IMO: 1) they are paying particular attention to that ONE story/essay and are giving you specific advice on how to best meet your goals, and 2) They are imparting wisdom that will apply to all your writing. It’s a class, too, on how to edit your own work, how to write.

Also: a good editor should seek to understand what the author is trying to achieve, “what their song is,” and then learn to help them get there. Not impose their own ideas about what the writing should be.

When clients send their work to me, they don’t have to worry.  I read their work, make suggestions, ask questions, and perhaps advocate for ideas, but every decision is the author’s.  It is my job to help the author find his or her voice, bring the story to life, and make suggestions or catch things the author might not have thought of, but it remains the author’s job to make the decision on how to respond.  The final result is the product of our collaboration, with the author remaining the author.

I will give you an overview/executive summary, reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript, including background information on the type of story you are writing, to provide a contextual and external benchmark for success.  If you are writing a spy thriller, I will provide background information on the genre with specific examples of goals to shoot for (no pun intended).

I will provide constructive criticism and suggestions made with the goal of helping your story to shine.  I will provide examples of your text to illustrate my comments.  I will ask questions to help you to see what is not said, what the reader does not know or understand, that you might add it to help the reader comprehend and, ultimately, enjoy your writing.  I will aid you from the largest theme to the smallest punctuation mark.

From a memo I provided a previous client:

The biggest piece of advice I have is to provide more exposition up front and more context throughout.  Don’t just refer to titles, positions, and actions without explaining them.  The reader has no idea where he or she is, who is who, or what is happening far too often.  Remember, the reader is not in your head with you and does not know the background information you do.  You need to provide it.  Often instead of providing context you’re using florid sentences that are meant to be “pretty” but do not inform the reader adequately.  Also, phrases like “she listened with pearls in her eyes” wear on a reader.  Some of the conversations are not necessary and could be replaced by exposition up front.  I know this flies in the face of “Mostly show, tell sometimes,” but you’re taking too long to show some things, such as the explanation of the priestly orders.  You launch your reader into a new world without preparation or the contextual clues that make it possible for your reader to understand and therefore fully enjoy your story.

This is exactly the kind of criticism a writer needs to improve: reality coupled with specific suggestions.

I will also provide you resources to assist you.

I am currently available to provide a full range of editing services, from writer coaching and major overhauls to simple copy editing.  My rates vary depending on the project.  Contact me for an estimate: robert@robertpeate.com