Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Here's my baby... now tear it apart. Please."

The first page of George Orwells's Nineteen Eighty-Four (from: Wikipedia)

"We have witnessed, in the past 15 years, the close of an era of great editors such as Diana Athill, Jenny Uglow, John Blackwell and Charles Monteith; they seem to have been replaced by more modest souls who often spot the literals but dare not open their mouths regarding more substantial matters. Perhaps they are ill-equipped, or lack the gravitas to be heeded when they do?
     But this over-simplifies what actually happens. Writers who fiercely insist that their publishers print exactly what they have submitted will often have subjected their work to the scrutiny of trusted readers, whose judgments they are prepared to accept. I suspect Ian McEwan is not much edited at Cape, but he and Craig Raine read each other's work before its final submission, forensically tweezering cliches as they go. Surely it is better to enlist the opinion of one's most respected peers, than that of a house editor, however much one admires their acuity?
     Most of us, though, do both. After all, one wants to publish the very best version of the text that is possible. If anyone – friend, relative, fellow writer, editor – can improve my work by as little (or as much) as the necessary substitution of a semi-colon for a comma, I am grateful to them. Editing is what we need, and if we have any sense at all, what we want. That's pretty obvious, isn't it?"
— Rick Gekoski, The Guardian

"The rumblings about editing that have reached me out here in my small seaside village boil down to one thing; time. Editors and agents have less time nowadays to devote to the actual editorial process and the manuscript itself. And because of this, manuscripts need to arrive in pristine form because in many cases, they won’t be thoroughly edited. Editors are looking for complete works rather than partials and they are more critical in their assessments. They want it ready to go. For many, the time is just not there to devote to a brand new writer and their book. This is a sea change from years back. Authors that have been in the business a long time will probably tell you they spend less time than in the past talking with their editor about the quality of the writing. If messing with the book is going to take up time but won’t in the end, contribute to selling more copies, then it isn’t always done. Sales and marketing and publicity plans can be a larger focus for an editor. Editors are encouraged to focus on new acquisitions and how to get the best talent. Who can they lure away? What marketing gimmicks are working? Editors can spend more time in meetings than at their desks. Free time for some only comes late at night."
— Caroline Tolley, Writer Unboxed

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