I’ve been tagged by author and friend Michael Stephen Daigle. He answered four questions, and he challenged me to do the same. So here goes:
- What is your role as an editor? Does it change whether you are editing fiction or nonfiction? My role as an editor is, quite simply, to make the author’s writing the best it can possibly be. What does that mean, exactly? Well, it means a lot of things. It means working with the author on clarity, structure, mechanical issues (spelling, punctuation, grammar), consistency—basically anything that is going to make the book more reader friendly.
While the overall premise of making an author’s work more reader friendly doesn’t change between fiction and nonfiction, the things I look for do change somewhat. Nonfiction writing generally has to be more formal, with little to no use of colloquialisms, slang, purposeful misspellings, etc. Facts need to be checked in nonfiction. In nonfiction, an author is often trying to be seen as an expert on the chosen subject. I help the writer to truly become that expert.
In fiction, however, there is a bit more leeway in things such as spelling. Different spellings of words can be used to give the writing a certain feel, or to go with a certain setting. For example, in Western or Southern settings, the word darling is often spelled darlin’. And that’s okay, because it makes reader understand the setting more clearly.
- What is the impact of the Internet and services like Twitter, which encourage short, less formal styles of writing, on the writing you edit? When are formal styles more appropriate? Facebook- and Twitter-speak don’t have too large of an impact on the writing I edit. Fiction authors will often use the text of a Facebook message, Tweet or text message as part of the plot, but generally the formatting of the text is changed so that readers are clear it is a message. In those cases, very informal spellings, like u for you, are not only okay, but encouraged. Anything that makes the manuscript more realistic works in fiction.
- What are the most common concerns you see in the copy you edit: Lack of cohesion, grammar and spelling issues, or choose your favorite. The most common concerns I see are incorrect use of commas, or commas that simply aren’t there, lack of consistency, and also lack of transitions.
When it comes to commas, some authors seem to take a bag of commas and throw them at the screen and see where they land, while others may not even be sure what a comma is. It’s my job to be sure they are added or deleted as necessary.
Consistency is also important, and sometimes overlooked. If a character’s eyes are blue in chapter 1, they need to be blue in chapter 3 and 5 and 10, unless there is a specific and explained reason for them to change.
Finally, transitions are sometimes a problem. Often in fiction, characters just appear in a scene, with no reasonable explanation given for how they got there. Did they fall in through the ceiling? Climb through the window? Readers need to know! Or characters will be in one place, and suddenly they will be in another, without readers knowing how they got there. These are the things I look for.
- Describe your editing process. What do you look for first? Is there a way not to prejudge a work and perhaps better see the strengths and weaknesses? What I look for first when editing depends on what the services for which the client has contracted me. Line editing, for example, is just that: editing the story for consistency, spelling, grammar, etc. Developmental editing is different, and involves working with the whole story, guiding the author on structure, characterization, plot, setting, etc. It’s not really a matter of looking for one thing over another; it’s more of working within the guidelines the author has given me.
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Ariana Gaynor has worked in the literary industry for fourteen years.
She spends her time in Central Ohio, loving her kids, along with her dog Shadow, lizard Izzy, and helping other authors.
Once the house is quiet and work is over, she spends her time writing.
She started reading her mother’s Harlequin and Silhouette romances in junior high, and then moved on to horror and suspense stories from Edgar Allan Poe, Steven King, Clive Barker, Ann Rice, and James Patterson.
Sewing, crocheting, and knitting are a few hobbies she enjoys.