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Writers and Their Editors

The editing process – a stage that can be just as infuriating as it is essential. In these blog posts, you can find out why a good editor is so important in creating a good book, as well as tips on the level of editing that's right for you.

What does it mean to be edited? Part IV

nicola NPO – The New Publishing Order The Old Order [maybe back in the 60s some time – the era of Diana Athill and long, long lunches] Rank 1: The In-House Editor at a major Publishing House - She’s worked with the likes of Amis and Rushdie.  Armed with a pashmina, interesting ear-rings and a red pen, she is the headmistress of editors. Beneath her charmed foot, ye shall bow down and edit as bidden or be kicked to the dogs.  And you’ll take it because no-one has taken a firm hand with you before. Rank 2: The Agent - The grand persuader. Also, usually armed with a pashmina but also a white wine spritzer, she will make you giddy with her praise. Her sparing editorial commentary will consist of ‘If you could just squish this in there and that out there’. ‘Ooh, and just kill off that darling’, she’ll purr.  And, hey presto, you’re in. Rank 3: The Teacher - You painfully practice your craft until you are ready to present to a teacher. This …
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What does it mean to be edited? Part III

nicola Is it a bird? Is it a plane? no, it's supereditor. No-one likes being challenged. Even though the Jeremy Paxmans of the world go in for the fight, really they'd like nothing better than for us all to roll over and accept them as master and ruler. Our whole society now operates within the conceit that your ''personal, individual' comfort is the be all and end all. The consequences of which are 1. bruised faces and hobbled knees on the tube as the person behind decides their need to get some place is greater than yours 2. men of all ages securing their bus/train/tube seat at the expense of the elderly, pregnant and injured. 3. members of the public feeling they are entitled to throw public tantrums and shout obscenities at other people just trying to do their jobs. And now this conceit is creeping into the writing community. Forget Zola's writer's garret or Woolf's room of one's own, no these days wannabe …

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What does it mean to be edited?Part II

nicola As the Brits Say –Mind the Gap! The fact is that there are more avenues for writers to publish their work now than ever. As ever though, there are two sides to this coin:

  1. Bad writers slipping through the net

  2. Good writers finding a home

But what does this mean for readers? Are the safeguards for their end experience shrinking? And how can this discrepancy be redressed? According to some camps within publishing, you can either get bought or you can get read. The two are not necessarily synonymous. And a budget sheet speaks louder to the decision makers than a finely crafted reader’s report. But what speaks louder to you as a reader?

  1. A quality read

  2. Something put together reasonably well with a beginning, middle and end and a coherent story

  3. Getting exactly what it says on the tin i.e. the fear, suspense, escapism inherent, respectively, in horror, crime, fantasy.

Is it really that simple though? Let’s go a little deeper. As a reader, are you happy to …
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What does it mean to be edited? And what should you expect? Part I


Reading Alex Clark’s Guardian piece last week on the Lost Art of Editing, author and long-serving publishing personality Carmen Callil’s derogatory comments on the role played by editors may have incensed me if her logic weren’t so painfully narrow. Let’s go through her ‘argument’:

i)  The general gist of Miss Callil’s opinion seems to be that the editor’s function was to stroke the author’s ego, a superfluous act fuelled by some old-fashioned nonsense about ‘relationship’ no doubt [Miss Callil’s inference here, I stress]

Author Miss Callil’s ego clearly doesn’t need more stroking hence her disregard for the role of Editor. No, give her a great copy-editor for a quick spell check and she’s practically good to go. After that, all she needs is a sales and marketing department to promote and deify her.

In her argument, there is no sense of the largeness that opening up your work to another perspective entails and demands. An editor …
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Evolving Editorial Services - Are You Being Served or Exploited?

nicolaThere are certain camps within the publishing industry – and outside of it - that are hostile to the very notion of charging aspiring writers for editorial services too early on in the process, viewing it as exploitative. 

If your work is good enough, they say, then an agent will take it on, an editor will refine it and a publishing expert will sell it. But with the remit of the editor narrowing by the day, there is simply not the luxury there once was to draw a multitude of writers out and grow them over a career. In fact, many of these editorial staff have been cut loose, their talents languishing in some no-man’s land of independent online editorial services. And in these times, when people still cling to a qualification as a bedrock to success, a plethora of MA courses can charge thousands of pounds - requiring the investment of a year or three – for a piece of paper that means nothing in the commercial world.

Now, don’t get me wrong, an MA is just as valid a route …

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