Monday 19 July 2010

More than just moving the commas around

One day, I would really like to write my own book. I've worked on quite a few books, and contributed to a couple, but I don't have my own yet. Thank goodness Diana Athill is my new role model, replacing Winona Ryder in Reality Bites.*

When that day comes, I'd love to work with a really great editor. While I've had some terrible editing experiences and some satisfactory experiences, I've not yet had the blow-my-mind, oh-my-god, you-mean-it-can-happen-like-that? experience. But I believe it's out there.

Anyway, the reason I was musing on this was that I came across this New Yorker column by Susan Orlean tucked away in my Instapaper files, and wanted to share it:

I could go on, about how I left Publishing House X for Publishing House Y because I was still scared of Editor F, and how at Publishing House Y I managed to get three books written there working with Editor G—who assured me that he would never leave, and this was almost true, except for a brief period when he did, in fact, leave, but then he came back—and then the head of Publisher Y got fired, and eventually I left and then Editor F left, and then I was working with Publisher Z, and then the head of Publisher Z left, and then I left Publisher Z to go back to Publisher W, because the person now running it was an old friend from the magazine world, who I knew would never leave, but you might think I was exaggerating. But I’m not.

The piece also reminded me of this piece by Gary Kamiya on Salon that I blogged about years and years ago, which I still love. And also this piece by Scott Berkun, which describes the editing relationship I hope to have:

I want to hear some tough stuff in the copyedit. How else will the book get better? A copyeditor and author shouldn’t agree on everything – the process should force the writer to think more clearly and catch bad assumptions they’ve made. I get final say, so what do I have to lose in being questioned? Better now than in book reviews.

*Female readers of a certain age will know what I mean. I hope.

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