Along With Editing a Manuscript I Need to Edit Myself
I’m deep into the editing of a 50,000 word non-fiction book. I was pretty excited to get this project because the author said it’s the first in a series of books, and he’s looking for a long term relationship with an editor.
But already, I’m running into all kinds of problems. They are not with the grammar, the formatting, the material, the ideas presented.
They are with me. I feel timid. I feel inhibited. I feel uncertain.
It’s not that I don’t know how to fix the writing mistakes. Or make the writing look great on the page. (Very important for an ebook in particular.) It’s not that I don’t know which parts are overkill, which parts are redundant, which parts are weak, which parts don’t quite make sense, which parts need to be cut or moved elsewhere for clarity.
I know all that. That part of editing is easy for me.
But it is an editor’s job to be ruthless, for the sake of the finished work. With my own work, I am quite ruthless. I want it to be as good as it can be. No matter how clever, how witty, how well worded — if those words don’t add anything to the feel or point of the piece, when I edit I take them out. With barely the slightest tug at my heart for their lost genius.
I am having a hard time being equally ruthless with another writer’s work. I know how much time, energy and effort goes into 50,000 words. How much of someones heart, their life.
And I want to remove so much of it… I am afraid the author will be offended. There are parts I suspect he really liked, really worked hard on. But if they don’t add anything to the work, if they make it sound rambling or amateurish, if they weaken the overall message of the book — then they have to be cut.
I was having trouble cutting as much as I know should be cut and worrying about what my client will say about what I did cut. I was worrying that I wouldn’t cut as much as needs to be, out of my own timidity, and the book would not be as strong as it might be.
Man, editors need some serious cojones! This is not a job for the Lilly-livered. (Love that expression, never had a chance to use it before!) A strong editor equals a strong book.
I consulted with my Editing Mentor. (Aren’t mentors the best?) EM agreed that was the difficult part of editing, usually for both writer and editor. She suggested several ways of kindly and diplomatically wording what I need to say.
My word choices can be a bit, well… shall we say, blunt? Because I don’t quite know how to phrase things gently, I become inhibited about saying them at all. EM cautioned me not to tell my author that I deleted his precious hard worked paragraphs because he was beating a dead horse, LOL. As if I would ever do such a tactless thing. With a client. That I barely know…
Okay, so my editing is really good; bedside manner — perhaps not so good. But I’m learning.
As soon as I got off the phone with Editing Mentor, I felt much better indeed, and much more confident about how to communicate what I need to… and so far, my client is pleased with what I’ve done and the brilliant, er, I mean tactful suggestions I’ve given him.
- Dear Author (nofluffjuststuff.com)