Thursday, July 27, 2006

What An Editor Doesn't Do

I've spent a lot of time recently relating my version of what an editor does. Most specifically, lately, what they look for, and do while actually editing. How about the things they don't do.

A caveat once again, this is my opinion. I do not, and do not wish to, speak for other editors.

I won't say never, because that's just too absolute, but I certainly would say that I pay strict attention to not changing the author's voice. That's not POV, that's not grammar--the author's voice is something so undefinable that it defies accurate description, but is definately something you know when you see it. It's the way they talk. The way they relate the story, and the way their characters relate to each other. Even who their characters are, and act. Again, that's not to say the editor shouldn't tell the author when the character is acting 'out of character' for the way the author has them set up. Or even suggest to the author that perhaps the character is a jerk (when he/she shouldn't be). But the editor shouldn't heavy hand the way the author sees the story, or characters in it to any degree that completely changes the story, feel, or plots, so long as they make sense.

I know for a fact that there are some instances where editors do this. In fact, Agent Kristen, on her Pub Rants blog series on what to look for in contracts specifically mentions that an agent, (or author) should ask before signing the contract, what changes the editor might want. How drastic they will be. Because it will let the author know if the editor is on the same page with them story wise, or if they are going to be expected to completely re-write plot lines, or character attitudes, etc.

In my opinion, if the subplots, or plots don't work, the story should not have been accepted in the first place. At the very least, it should have been sent back for revisions before the contract was offered. In a less than perfect world, that's not always the way it happens, but unless it completely cripples the story I do believe such tinkerings should be avoided at all costs.


Bernita said...

To enhance - not reconstruct.

kmfrontain said...

I've sent two rejection letters with reasons and why's and how to's on changing the stories to make them work. The stories would have involved too much work that the author should have done, involved too many changes that the editor would have to prod, show, teach. I think when reading a sub -- or at least this is what I do when I read a sub -- I don't take on a project that I'd have to change so much that it's going to end up being half my work as a result. Hence, it had better be fix ups only that I see are necessary, not major reconstruction. The voice of the author should already be there and be very clear, and so too the basics of a good plot, characters, etc. Once you see that an author has a fair grip on them, then it's not such a big whoop as to what's going to need editing. At least not how I see it. No editor should change the author's voice or style. Got to agree with that.