Saturday, August 01, 2009

Where Did This Idea Start?

I've noticed a small trend in the publishing world. A rather dismaying one and one that I feel may be linked to the plethora of new places where you can publish, including but not limited to websites, CafePress, Lulu and of course the growing industry of e-book publishing.

For better or worse, there is a small subset of authors who are redefining (in their minds, anyway) the role of editor. Basically, the change that they are assuming can be summed up in one sentence.

The editor is there to catch and fix my mistakes.

On the surface, this does not sound bad. It actually sounds exactly correct. The problem is that the emphasis has changed. Most authors, whether born in 1950 or 1980 or at any other time, do feel that an editor's job is to catch mistakes. They are not wrong. The problem is this... a small subset of authors out there feel that it is the editors job to catch all the mistakes.

In other words, they don't don't worry about self-editing first. They just throw it out there and trust that someone else will check and double check. Some of this I blame on a lack of education, not in traditional schooling but in the craft of writing. Some of it I blame on the pressures of a growth market; where companies who are struggling to stay on the crest of a wave that will eventually break on the beach of maturity buy things to keep other companies from buying them first. And some of it I blame on the authors themselves, who have fallen prey to a cultural expectation that anything wrong must be able to be blamed on someone else.

It's sad really. And completely beyond my understanding. I can not personally conceive of turning in a work that was as rife with problems as some of things not only out there being edited, but even already published.

It has to stop somewhere. So, a word of warning. If I am your editor and you write about King George receiving a telegram of anger concerning the Boston Tea Party? Or if your African-American hero from the south side of Chicago constantly proclaims things to be "bloody annoying" and no one finds it strange? Or if your baseball player hits eighty home runs in 2004 and never has to deal with a steroid accusation and never gets interrupted at dinner for an autograph request and can easily hide that he is actually an alien from Arcturus Prime complete with a tail that somehow never got noticed by teammates or the ESPN reporters in the locker room?

Expect me to call you on it.

You can use Google as easily as I. You can look up when the telegraph was invented, or the year Germany invaded Poland. And you know that a kid from Chicago will use the F word and a thinly disguised Mr. Darby clone in Victorian England will not.

As your editor, I am there to help you change there into their or point out that the brown sweater was red three pages ago. I have no problem with things like that. We all lose track of things over the course of months writing a book. I'm not perfect. I screw up,too. All the time actually. Both as an author and as an editor. But even so...

As an editor,it is not my job to do your homework. It is not my job to do your basics. It is my job to tweak and prod and try to help you be the best you can possibly be. I am not supposed to build the engine. Just tune it up. That's why I get one-tenth the royalty percentage you do. Because you are supposed to have already done the big job. I'm supposed to help with the details... and maybe keep you off Twitter's #romfail.

5 comments:

Lesli Richardson said...

Internet Writing Workshop. I've "done time" there, on the Novels-L list, and I still insist it is one of THE best resources out there for writers. Period. Full stop.

Any writer who thinks they are "da sh*t" will soon find out they are anything but after their first round of crits comes back. (And this is good, because it forces writers to look at their work at a different angle.)

HOWEVER, even more valuable than that is the ability to critique other writers, see how other writers edit still more writers, and therefore helping those with open minds and a willingness to learn actually learn how to self-edit. (Might not stop a propensity for run-on sentences, though. LOL)

It boggles my mind that people will send in stuff practically unedited and then lament they can't find an agent/publisher for their "baby."

No, I'm not perfect, and page blindness strikes all of us, and it's easy to "edit in" mistakes when fixing something else. But dang it, if someone wants to be a "real writer," they should treat it like a "real job," including putting in the sweat of learning their craft.

Will Belegon said...

***(Might not stop a propensity for run-on sentences, though. LOL)***

Right here I decided that I like you. *grin*

Lesli Richardson said...

*LOL* Thanks!

PennyAsh said...

Well said.

It is also not my job to "just go ahead and rewrite it for me, I'm too busy right now." You want to put my name on the cover and split the royalties 50/50 with me we can talk. Otherwise...No. DIY.

And you know what dear author? Just like you have a list of editors you don't want to work with again, we editors have a list of authors...

Just sayin'...

Lesli Richardson said...

LOL PennyAsh! Amen!!!