Saturday, July 24, 2010

To Edit is to Listen

The title of this post is actually a quote taken from page 2 of the text I am, in brief, going to be discussing: The Artful Edit by Susan Bell. Bell has been editing fiction and non-fiction professionally for over twenty years for such places as Random House. So, it's safe to say this woman has some major editorial chops. The book is actually about the act of self-editing and I, honestly, would recommend it to anyone. It blend's Bell's own wealth of experience with the voices of real (successful) authors and real (successful) editors. 

But self-editing isn't what I'm going to be talking (blogging) about. As I've said, it's Leafkin season and we're moving forward with volume two, which, if all goes as planned, we're set to release in early September. We're still in the editing phase, which is what moved me to pick up this book again. I was re-reading the introduction and was struck by how many good reminders are packed into it. 

As this is a book about self-editing, it's introduction, naturally, goes over some aspects of professional editing. She highlights the fact that there are different types of editing, contrasting the minutely minded edits Gordon Lish gave to Raymond Carver and the broad scope story ideas editor Maxwell Perkins gave to F. Scott Fitzgerald. The job of the editor, according to Bell, is to listen to not only what the author needs but what the story needs as well. No two edits are going to be alike because every author and every story is different. Her main point was best summarized, I think, by:

 "A text deserves to be pondered and nudged, not simply bullied into place. ... Editing is a conversation, not a monologue."(pg.6)

I am absolutely a nut for quotes so I could go on quoting her forever but I'll spare you. Suffice it to say that I have found this book helpful in my own work as well in my latest efforts to help pull together this anthology. Bell reminds us that the wise editor does not strong arm the text in front of her and, following in that example, neither does the wise self-editor.

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