Friday, April 17, 2009

The Agonies of Editing

Ahh noelle, it's not just fledgling authors who feel the dents of editorial comment. I am about to receive edits from my publishers and am getting myself prepared for the sting (as much as you can). "Don't they get it! How dare they say that! But I love that part!" might be among the thoughts you're having. I rant and rave and get all bothered and offended.

I find two things help with the post edit sting (actually three) a/ putting the edits down for a bit and mulling (or brooding -if you like) them over; b/ choosing the best "hills to die on" if you get my meaning - the happy medium between those things you are willing to change and those that must remain as they are, besides which, it is still your story, you do not have to make any of the changes an editor asks of you (though I would not recommend such action, a good editor will me you a better writer - I know that is true for me, God bless you Celia and Tim) c/ the healing balm of time.

Also, remind yourself that the editing stage is a team effort, AND the crucial first sharing with the beginnings of an ever widening audience. Though criticism is hard to bare, the excitement of the improved text gained through it is well worth all the struggle... well I think so, anyway.

My first drafts are L-U-M-P-Y, uneven, turgid and at times self-indulgent - folks don't have to be sad that they get edited down and words cut out; the words that are left are far better than those removed. Just for perspective I excised 25,000 words from the 1st draft of Lamplighter and oh how it improved. If anyone thought say that the journey from Winstermill to Wormstool dragged a bit in the final version of Lamplighter, just know that it went for a whole chapter longer in the 1st draft... even I thought is S-L-O-W when I came to read it over properly for myself. And now here in Book 3, Factotum, I have managed I think to prise 9,000 words (so far) out of the first 10 chapters and it is already a far better book.

So bring on the editing, I say, pain and all, a better book awaits (though ask me again in a week or so's time how I am feeling about it all...)

Alyosha, I really enjoyed your comment and though I have given cursory thought to engineers and masons and the like, I shall now think a little more particularly about such folks who tread the middle path between out and out adventure and staying safe behind walls. Concometrists come to mind a bit here, the measurers and the surveyors - but what of engineers? What should I call them...?

42 comments:

Carlita said...

Hi again, long time no comment from me. Congrats on all the shortlists, Mr. Cornish! I was wondering, though, that since we are talking about editing, does anyone know how difficult it is to break into the editing profession?

I'm just a youngin' in college right now and I am studying English, despite the fact that I have no idea how I can make the major, well, 'economically successful' (I like children, but I would never teach). Thus, instead of trying the more fun and more difficult writing (of which I do when I can/the inclination is there), I'm going to try to be an editor (and not because I want to inflict pain on poor writers either). So, you all who seem to be much more knowledgable and involved in the writing fields, I come to you with my question.

And I'm sorry for the length - I just thought that some background for the question would be nice/helpful.

Alyosha said...

I’m glad that you enjoyed the what-is-an-engineer post and, given that you don’t, after all, have a name already picked out, it’s kind of you to spare time from editing Factotum to consider the question. For what it’s worth here are a few possibilities to add to your list: a) just as various other professions are called by their ordinary names, engineers could be… engineers; or, b) using the Old English for bulwark (bolwerc), engineers who design and build fortifications could be “bolwercors;” or c) using the Latin for strength (fortis) and creator (sator) = “fortisator;” or d) less flattering to we engineers, but maybe more appropriate from a bogle’s point of view, the Latin root for partition (pars) plus the Latin for engineer/contriver (ingeniator) = “parsingeniator.” As said, these are just some thoughts. I don’t base my self-worth on my skills as creative-name-generator, so I honestly won’t be disappointed if you don’t care for these!

portals said...

That's alot of editing..
Make a link from this page to 'Lamplighter Uncut' if you still have the first draft. That could e fun.
Lucid Dreaming - I downloaded an mp3, but it didnt really work.

fret said...

At least you get to review and decide on edits.

I listened to the final result of a song I did the guitar for last night and some other guitarist had scribbled riffs all over the top of my parts... and now it's mastered and off to the dupe house.

They could've asked me for more parts... *sigh*

There is always pain in artist work.

D.M. Cornish said...

Most certainly is, dear Fret, though being ridden over rough shod might be the worst of them. Sorry to hear that you have been treated so shabbily. Love to all the other M's...

Your invention is not far from my own process at all, Alyosha, don't sell yourself short.

I have been thinking master portals of putting up somehow, a some exemplars at least of before and after editing - I shall keep looking into it...

D.M. Cornish said...

Oh, and I have no idea how one becomes an editor Carlita - it is a complete fluke (or a miracle, as I see it) that I am even an author... I shall ask Celia (my editor) for advice.

Klesita said...

It is no better in non-fictional writing. I have never written a book as such but have several articles published in scientific journals. And I get physically sick every time I open my email to find my paper back after been reviewed. It is made worst by the fact that you not only get reviewed by the editor/s but also by two or more anonymous peers, who sometimes can be worst than the editors themselves.

Carlita I think it must be difficult to become an editor. You need an incredible grasp of the language and its uses as well as a critical eye, a sense of what will work and what won't even when the manuscript is very raw. Also you'll end up dealing with all this outraged authors (fledgling and mature alike). Not that I want to put you off, just trying to be realistic about the demands of this profession.

noelle said...

Thank you for your response, Mr. Cornish! I'm glad I'm not the only writer who feels this way.

As painful as editing is, I'm still glad these criticisms are coming now, from my editor, than from people who might be reading the final draft! In my English class we read a poem called "The Author to Her Book" about a woman whose friends took her unfinished book overseas and published it there. She's absolutely mortified that people are reading her uncut, unpolished brain child. I know that if someone published my book as it is now, I'd feel much the same way.

I just have to keep reminding myself that :)

Balis: a pen that looks like an ordinary quill pen, but has a modern fountain pen built into the tip.

Carlita said...

Thank you Mr. Cornish for trying to help and Klesita for your help. I really appreciate your honesty in pointing the difficulties of editing since I know it's far too easy to only see the good of anything and ignore the bad. I'm just glad that I've got enough time to switch my mind and career goals as many times as possible. It helps to hear the author's side of editing too. (Unfortunately, I know the pain of 'constructive criticism' as well, as schools like to call it.)

ellorneo said...

Good grief man! Editing sounds tough, and authoring even tougher!!! I think I'll stick to building planes :-)

Alyosha said...

I agree, ellorneo, that for some of us, building airplanes is easier than being a writer or an editor. So, for any of you creative-leaning bloggers who (in spite of the wise and kindly mentoring that you’re getting from Master Cornish) change your mind about being writers or editors, be aware that less obviously creative careers, engineering for example, offer more opportunities for being creative than is commonly supposed. And, speaking of engineers, I have two more thoughts (probably my last on the topic of engineer naming) to offer. Since much of engineering has to do with water works, fort works, road works, public works, etc., perhaps a good common-vernacular name for an engineer would be “worksman.” The other idea came from my daughter. I asked her, out of the blue, what would be her fantasy name for an engineer. She suggested “verger.” I asked if this was because engineers were focused, sort of the opposite of di-vergers, but she (an artist, by the way, though with no plans to become an artist/novelist) said no, that she had no idea what the word meant, that it just felt right.

Klesita said...

Hey Alyosha many professions are not particularly creative but I don't think that engineering is one. On the contrary one of the most creative people that ever lived was (among other things) an engineer and a very ingenious one, I'm referring to da Vinci of course. It is just that engineers apply creativity to solve practical problems... like flying for example, and finding new ways to design and build planes has to be creative.

theothervowel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
theothervowel said...

@Mr. Cornish I imagine getting editing back is very painful. One of my best friends is a writer. She is having me illustrate her characters and also having me read her rough draft. She told me to write comments about it for her. It is a daunting task to do some editing/commenting as well as getting the comments.

p.s. You should get a twitter. That would be pretty boss.

@Alyosha I really like your engineer names. I think my two favorites are fortisator and verger.

-Hanna Mae

portals said...

Creativity comes in many different forms.

Klesita said...

Theothervowel I don't think this is the time to give Master Cornish that kind of ideas (twitter). It is toooooo distracting and he is busy finishing our book...

And maybe starting to think in future Half Continent related projects. By the way master Cornish, seeing that the end of Factotum is imminent and after several polls and comments in this blog, do you have a concrete project to follow or are you planing in taking some time off?

theothervowel said...

@Klesita ohhhh... you are quite right. my bad. scratch that Mr. Cornish, forget I said anything involving that. :)The book is WAY more important.

-Hanna Mae

Alyosha said...

Instead of addressing a pack of lanternsticks, it's clear that I was blogging to folks who already understood that a creative career can be found outside of the classic ones of writer, composer, or artist. My apologies for preaching to the choir.

Hanna, thanks for the response about the engineer names. I was curious whether or not anyone else had preferences.

Klesita said...

Alyosha

I think I like better parsingeniator

noelle said...

Mr. Cornish, I think it would be amazing to see an unedited segment of MBT in comparison to the final product. I'm bracing myself now in preparation for rewriting a sizable portion in order to get some glaring character inconsistencies out...it feels like tearing down a house and starting over because the wallpaper is the wrong color!

Addbytic: a drug that promises to make one's life a living hell in order to make the world seem all the sweeter once the drug wears off.

Kusarbo said...

I like verger. I'm guessing engineers would often be working on the verge of things, so it sounds right.
Or even vergermen.

D.M. Cornish said...

I like verger, too. Very apt - your daughter is correct, Alyosh, it just feels right.

I shall see what I can do re: what my edits look like noelle - I can tell you that my own edited m.s. are often scrawled all over with green pen, front AND back, wih lines and asterisks and boxed insertions and large "x's" through bad writing.

Indeed, I just got editorial comments today and am feelng pretty small and foolish for all the errors and weaknesses in the first draft. A LOT of work to do yet afor things are to the standard you all are used to...

Feeling very glum.

Klesita said...

I went today to the first day of a workshop I'm doing on writing -not exciting creative writing just scientific writing- and the lady giving the workshop received us with two quotes that I find very apt for this forum so here they are:

"I write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning." Peter de Vries

"Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead." - Gene Fowler

Carlita said...

I like those quotes, Klesita, especially the last one that I've already heard before, but it's still very true.

I like the quote by Flannery O'Conner from a book I read that said, "I don't know if the muse is going to show up or not on any given day, but by golly, I'm going to be at my desk from 8 to 12 every morning in case she does."

Damien said...

But editing is a joy... :o|
Trying to cull a 230,000+ word piece is something I wished I had done as I went along - not on back to back edits - and knowing all along that I am no editor...
Thank goodness I met an awesome editor - who also happens to be my fiance :o)
Whatever it takes to make the work better...
Good luck with it DM!

Differlot said...

wow a lot of people sure have joined since i haven't been on. Looks like fame to me

Differlot said...

You have an army of eager readers!!!

Klesita said...

Hey Damien that seems to me unfair advantage... LOL, by the way if you have a 230,000+ manuscript you already have the trilogy!

Why are you worrying about Master Cornish, we know that you can take a little bit of criticism and from what you say it seems that your editor is a wonderful, balanced and fair person.

In my writing workshop we are discussing editing at the moment and the facilitator says that it is not advisable to start working on edits straight away after you get them because you will work "with your guts and not with your head". She recommends reading your editors/reviewers criticisms through once, let it be for few hours/days (depending on how much the critique has affected you) to think things properly and put things in perspective (she says that Tai Chi and yoga can help) and then with a cool head work on it. This is probably true for other people but I get incensed every time I read my editors/reviewers comments, it seems that I am too emotional to be a writer.

D.M. Cornish said...

No such thing as too emitional!

(and though I thank you for your confidence in my ability to take criticism, it sure does not feel like it at the time; the art director at Omnibus has identifed in me what we affectionately call my 'sphinctre' - my automatic contrary reaction to whatever is posited. Because of this I find it best for me to shut up at first, think about things then react.

I think I have figured why it can 'suck' so much at edit time: I feel embarassed that I have not been able to produce good (read: errorless) work the first time, like letting the team down or something. Ahh well, its how you end that is more important than how you begin, and editing words already written is easier than conjuring them ex nihilo from the mud of my mind.

portals said...

I sure you will make the book amazingly good and show those nasty editors!

Anna said...

So Mr Cornish, when are you headed my way to do some PR for your books?

May I perhaps tempt you with this:http://www.bok-bibliotek.se/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothenburg_Book_Fair

Damien said...

I agree DM - no such thing as too emotional. You put in so much time in to produce a piece of work - it becomes a part of you. If you didn't feel at least some emotion about any suggested change...
Either way - I'm dreading the future step of professional editing... Dread dread dread...
(PS. Klesita - the 230,000+ words fortunately/unfortunately equates to 'Part 1' and half of 'Part 2'... Fortunately - lots done. Unfortunately - lots to edit :o)

noelle said...

Has anyone read the Edward Gorey story "The Unstrung Harp"?

"Mr. Earbrass has been rashly skimming through the early chapters, which he has not looked at for months, and now sees The Unstrung Harp for what it is. Dreadful, dreadful, DREADFUL! He must be mad to go on enduring the unexquisite agony of writing when it all turns out drivel. Mad. Why didn't he become a spy? How does one become one? He will burn the manuscript. Why is there no fire?"

"The characters have one and all become thoroughly tiresome, as though he had been trapped at the same party with them since the day before."

"After that there is rewriting. This is worse than merely writing, because not only does he have to think up new things just the same, but at the same time try not to remember the old ones."

D.M. Cornish said...

Amen!

Ben Bryddia said...

Why's nobody doing Verificon words anymore?

Mr. Cornish.
Since it's not socially acceptable to be abroad without a hat of some sort in the Empire, does Europe's refusal to wear one say anything about her personality?

I was also wondering if fuses came in any other shapes than the simple poles described in the books. I have no idea how one would wrap a knobbly bastinade stick with wire, but the concept sounds rather interesting to my addled thoughts.

Alyosha.
'Verger' does sound good. 'Parsingeniator' sounds like a name engineers would not use, but the overly 'sophisticated' might if they are trying to sound intellegent. I also wonder about the specific positions such as masons, carpenters,foremen, etc. that would be involved in engineering. With all those massive curtain walls and wayhouses and things, there are probably a few companies around to construct them.

asker: a thin, reddish grey snake that dwells in the foliage of fruit trees. Askers usually eat the small insects, such as hornets, that eat the fruit.
-Ben.

portals said...

Mr. Cornish, I was wondering - with all the monsters, how is hunting in the H/C? I mean, everyone seems quite well fed, but I never heard anything about actually getting the food. I know Rossamund walks past pastures with cows, but he also eats venison. Maybe I'm missing something (probably, but ... yeah ...

noelle said...

Commenting is sloooooow...

(spoilers) Okay, if Rossamund is a girl's name, and also the name of a monster, are there girls in the H-c named Rossamund? How do they like sharing their names with monsters?

AquaLo: a fashionable all-water diet that involves special flavored powders to mix into water, although they supply only negligible nutritional value.

Klesita said...

Noelle

I think editing is taking its toll...

Ben Bryddia said...

Noelle
(Spoilers)
My guess is, since Rossamunderling is such an obscure term gepgraphically and otherwise, the average lass called Rossamund wouldn't know she shared her name. Monster lore seems to be an obscure sort of knowledge, unless it tells how to kill one.

ineysier: [inA sear] a term used for a mason who repairs chimneys and the high exteriors of defensive walls. Generally, ineysering is relegated to the more disposable members of the mason team, such as the apprentices (lacips).
-Ben

monday said...

nosy personal question, Mr Cornish-
i just re-read Foundling again and am suddenly wondering if you have some sort of deep-seated, sweat-inducing terror of, when traveling, accidentally getting on te wrong bus/train/airplane. [i'm talking ocourse about Rossamund's incident with the Rupunzil and the Hogshead.] because i am a paranoid traveller myself, and that situation certainly struck a chord with me...did you have some sort of bad experience, or is it just the product of an over-anxious imagination?

fraptio: a very small drawstring bag, usually of lace or other insubstantial cloth, which can hold three coins and a feather-thin handkerchief exactly perfectly and anything else not at all...it fell swiftly out of fashion due not to its impracticality and silliness but rather because it did in fact have some minor use

hereandnow said...

Jumping in to respond to Carlita.

I was wondering, though, that since we are talking about editing, does anyone know how difficult it is to break into the editing profession? ... I am studying English, despite the fact that I have no idea how I can make the major, well, 'economically successful' (I like children, but I would never teach).Ahahaha. 'Economically successful' is not commonly associated with entry-level publishing jobs! I'm an editor now and doing a bit better, but when I started at my company -- having done two undergrad degrees -- I was earning half the salary of a first-year-out teacher. Some of my colleagues have weekend jobs to support their full-time jobs in publishing.

That's not to say it's impossible, but it can be hard to (a) break into the industry, and (b) support yourself when you get there. The editors I know work for the love of books, rather than for the money. (One of the many things that writers and editors have in common.)

As for how to break in? I can only really talk about my experience. I'd wanted to be an editor since I was about thirteen! I studied English (among other things) at uni, focusing on professional writing and editing, children's literature and creative writing. I did a fair bit of unpaid editing, including as a resident assistant (helping other students structure and proofread their essays/theses) and working on the team that produced the uni literary journal.

I was incredibly lucky to score an admin job in my dream publishing company straight out of uni. Everyone in my department knew that I wanted to be an editor one day and they were (are) amazingly supportive -- sharing their knowledge and giving me opportunities to develop my skills.

I did an editing course at night while I was doing the admin role. A lot of editor training happens on the job, so I took every opportunity to work on new books -- which meant I work(ed) some extremely crazy overtime! I eventually became a trainee editor, and a year after that, a full editor.

That's my story (so far). I have been incredibly fortunate to be in the right places at the right times! But I've worked really hard to make sure I was in those right places. If that makes sense.

For more information, you might check out some of these links:

http://callmyagent.blogspot.com/2009/02/unleashing-inner-editor.htmlEr. I should also note that 'editor' means different things around the world. In Australia, an editor mostly does things like structural editing, copyediting, proofreading and project management. Australian editors don't sign up books -- that is done by a commissioning editor or publisher -- but this is often part of the job of a British or American editor.

And editing can be just as terrifying from the other side of the desk! I always worry about how an author is going to react to my suggestions, even when I feel they're going to make the book stronger.

... Sorry to ramble on!

hereandnow said...

Ack, HTML fail. Sorry. The link is to Editorial Anonymous' excellent posts on editing.*fades back into lurkerdom*