By Caitlin Kelly
Although you might not assume so, this post has been multiply edited, if only by me — albeit a career journalist, writing teacher and writing coach. (Here’s my professional website, if of interest.)
The point of a real live human editor is to have someone smart
do this to your copy as needed.
Today, there’s a widely-shared myth that writing means you simply bang out a bunch of words as they occur to you, hit “send” or “publish” and you’re done!
That intense feeling of Ihavetosaythisrightnow? Not your best product, most likely. You might feel done — but your public and permanent offering might also be misspelled, ungrammatical, incorrect, dull or confusing.
At worst, all of these.
We all need editors!
When I teach writing, and blogging, I emphasize how essential it is to re-read, revise, and repeat the process, many times. Some of my blog posts have gone through 10 or 15 revisions before you see them — I change words, clarify my thoughts, delete or add.
Very few writers can’t benefit from fresh eyes and ears on their material, whether they’re writing poetry, fiction, non-fiction, journalism or a blog post.
I was fortunate indeed to have a very tough editor on my most recent book, Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail, which was published by Portfolio, a major New York City house focused on business. Next time you sneer: “It’s not rocket science!” remember that my editor had previously worked for NASA…
I turned in the manuscript, which was about 100,000 words and had taken me about nine months to produce, and got back what, in the industry, are known as “notes”.
There were a lot of them, including her approval of Chapters 11 and 12.
“What about Chapters One through 10?”! I wailed.
Revision city, kids.
Every book goes through an editor — usually several!
Being a cynical sort, I sometimes wonder how many revisions a published story or book has been through — one best-seller, its editor told a writing conference, needed twelve.
A young journalist I know came within a hairs’ breadth of winning a very prestigious award and received huge accolades for her story; I saw its first draft and knew what a heavy lift it had been for her and various editors, including me, to get it to that point.
Nor did she ever bother to publicly thank me for my help, which rankled.
The New York Times, for which I write freelance, has recently cut its copy editing staff, preferring to hire more reporters. Now I’m seeing more errors in the paper — like the word “et” (albeit a French word, but that’s what editors are for!) instead of “est”.
And good editors do a lot more than correct spelling mistakes.
Can your writing or blogging use fresh eyes, or some sharpening?
I offer one-on-one coaching and individual webinars, in person (NYC-area), by phone and by Skype.