The Art of Editing, What the Creative Writer Seeks

I’ve been thinking about the art of editing. In looking at lot of the edits done here lately, I’ve wondered how the author views the editor, and sending a query, what expectations they bring into the very particular sort of relationship created under this banner. The answer varies highly. For our writers, we are those who know how to prompt and poke, we’re the envisioned reader. Particularly with novelists, we stand in as the popular other, the reader out in the world, but with a difference. Trained in editing creative work over the years, we bring to it an eye for what works. That registers to us almost at once, and is our focal point when we start off our response. We know that satisfying feeling of reading a sentence whose basic elements create, perhaps with a moment of dialogue afterwards, the character in whose presence we will travel for pages to come.

Here at CambridgeEditors, the arrival of creative work is likened to an anticipated holiday. We wake up with ideas for nights ahead, once a query reaches us. We do lots of subconscious planning when we’re reading for leisure. As the day approaches–the arrival of the manuscript—anticipating becomes hands-on work. Like a good host, we put ourselves in the place of the guest. What might we lack? The piece of fiction or memoir might lack those specifics placing us at the table where we’ll sit around with others, and knowing why we’ve come. We want to know the seating arrangement, the candles and place settings and from whom inherited; the choice of dessert, the meats; the vegan dishes; what about if you’re not of the family at all? Why are pumpkins still by the door, when all you can think of is potato mounds and turkey? If what I say implies projection onto the author, this could not be further from the truth. In these two prior instances, we’re asked to read for lapses of characterization, for what we cannot see and feel, for when our hearts stop beating fast, for the moments our eyes stop tearing. I phrase this in the negative because our assumption going into the edit, continuously borne out when we receive them, is that they’re written with nothing held back in the way of work, love of words, and evolved talent.

The novelist, memoir or verse writer is highly emotively attached, and thus typically emotively present, in the work. She/he has given over linguistic talents staged at the crib side; only be found only after years of accessing the family language, or its long silences—the praise or coarseness of parents; the scratchy sounds of kids pajama feet on hardwood stairs.

–Dr. Harte Weiner

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