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Ask Aunt Elizabeth: The authors I work with see me as the enemy

By Elizabeth d’Anjou

Looking for advice on editing the editing life? Whether you’re a beginner looking for tips on starting out or an old hand looking for another perspective, veteran editor Aunt Elizabeth is ready to address your queries. Submit them to [email protected]—you may find the answers you are looking for in next month’s column.

Ask Aunt Elizabeth: The authors I work with see me as the enemy

(1) Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

At my current in-house editorial job, I have to provide feedback to authors on ways they can improve their writing. This often involves using examples from their work, explaining why the examples are incorrect, and discussing possible solutions. I also rate them on the quality of their work, and these ratings are used to determine their bonuses.

While I try to be diplomatic, half the time the authors resist my suggestions and refuse to incorporate them, sometimes rudely questioning my qualifications. This often translates into no improvement in their work and the continued assignation of low ratings by me. It’s a vicious cycle that is not conducive to a good working relationship. (more…)

How to break through walls: A writer’s perspective on the infamous “block”

By Judy Ann Crawford

How to break through walls: A writer’s perspective on the infamous “block”

People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.—Anna Quindlen

So it’s time to write the thing. Topic? Check. There it is, typed out at the top of the page, a vast whiteness beneath it that you are trying not to focus on. Coffee? Of course. Donut? No. You can’t risk the inevitable crash that follows the sugar rush. There will be no crashing. It’s writing day. Time? Yes. You even have supper prepared ahead (that is, five or six supper-like ingredients tossed into a dish, including copious amounts of cheese, which you hope qualify as a casserole). So why aren’t you writing?

Writer’s block. (more…)

Five steps to successfully editing for a controlling client

By Jessica Trudel

Five steps to successfully editing for a controlling client

To outsiders, editing seems like a very straightforward process: read a document, fix the mistakes, and rinse and repeat. What we editorial insiders know, though, is that no two editing projects are exactly alike.

Think about it. Each project you work on involves a new and different

  • client
  • document
  • intended audience
  • purpose

Your editing process will have to adapt to these and many other factors. (more…)

A week in the life of an academic editor

broken-pencilsBy Kerry Fast

I get odd responses when I say I’m an academic editor—from fellow editors, that is. Everyone else I say that to seems vaguely impressed, though not quite sure how to carry on the conversation from there. But other editors, even those who edit academic writing, seem to think that academics enjoy nothing more than deliberately obfuscating meaning on a topic they’re valiantly trying to sound as if they know everything about.

The truth of the matter is that academics who write well know how to construct complex sentences that convey meaning beautifully. It’s the ones who don’t know how to write that hire editors. And it is in this bunch that I find clients who make editing academic writing stimulating and enjoyable for me.

I spent hours this week removing italics from a thesis proposal and then when I had finished that job, I started all over again with removing italics, this time from a thesis chapter by Annabelle, a PhD student. I do not enjoy this part! But I did enjoy the work I did for Annabelle in other ways — hers was a challenging piece of work. Her ideas were sophisticated, but poorly expressed because English is not her first language.

Editing can be a delicate business of not putting words into someone’s mouth, but making sure that the complexity of the ideas is adequately communicated. In a phone conversation, she wanted to know why I had removed all the italics. She also wanted clarification of my comments about jargon. A half-hour later we both had a better understanding of what jargon was and how and when to use it. I appreciated the way she ended the conversation: “We’re a team now.” The hour-long conversation had been hard work on my part, but deeply meaningful.

(more…)

Q&A: Linden MacIntyre on the author/editor relationship

What do authors think about editors? What do authors think makes the difference between a good editor and a great editor?

Linden MacIntyrePreviously, BoldFace asked internationally bestselling author Mary Lawson about her experience working with editors. This time we posed the same questions to Linden MacIntyre, a renowned journalist whose work has earned him multiple awards and a long-time co-host of CBC television’s the fifth estate. He is also the author of Why Men Lie and The Bishop’s Man, among others.

Q&A conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

Overall, what’s your experience like as an author who’s been edited?

I’ve had a variety of experiences. In my first, I never met or spoke to the editor at all about the manuscript. We spoke of many other things: life, music, the struggles of creativity. Eventually he requested, as I recall, no changes in my manuscript, and I believe he farmed it out to a freelancer for what I now understand to have been a line edit. I was then given the marked-up manuscript and advised to accept the changes proposed, none of which were substantial. My next experience involved long meetings (over tea) with an editor who explained just about every change, no matter how minor (such as why “St. Catharines” is spelled with an “a”). My last few experiences were with my editor-publisher, Anne Collins, who is constructively brutal, in painstaking detail. Many of her suggested cuts are, at first glance, fatal, but, on second glance, crucial to the flow and clarity of the story. So I unquestioningly believe everything she says. (Most of the time.)

(more…)

Q&A: Mary Lawson on the author/editor relationship

mary_lawsonWhat do authors think about editors? What do authors think makes the difference between a good editor and a great editor?

Previously, BoldFace asked children’s author and illustrator Jeremy Tankard about his experience working with editors. This time we posed the same questions to London, United Kingdom–based, internationally bestselling author Mary Lawson, who penned Road Ends, The Other Side of the Bridge, and Crow Lake.

Q&A conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

Overall, what’s your experience like as an author who’s been edited?

I’m in the slightly unusual position of having three editors: one in Canada, one in the United States, and one in the United Kingdom, all of whom have to agree on the final version of each book. It’s a complicated set-up, and if any of them were unwilling to consider the views of the others, the whole business would be impossible. Fortunately, all three are outstandingly good editors and genuinely want what is best for the books and, therefore, they’ve been open to suggestions from the others.

For me, the chief disadvantage of the arrangement is that I have three different sets of notes and comments to work through, which is exceedingly time-consuming! But the advantage is that if all three of the editors agree on a particular point, I know for certain that they are right. If they don’t agree, I feel able to stick to my guns and go with what feels right. I have huge respect for all three, and they have been wonderful to work with.

What is it like as an author to work months, or even years, on a book and then have an editor read it critically and suggest (sometimes major) changes?

Inevitably, it is an anxious time. It takes me roughly six years to write a book—a significant chunk of my life—so there’s a lot riding on it. But I find it very difficult to judge my own work, and, therefore, I do welcome comments. So far I haven’t been asked to make any major changes. (more…)

Q&A: Author Jeremy Tankard on the author/editor relationship

What do authors think about editors? What do authors think makes the difference between a good editor and a great editor?

Jeremy-Tankard-3Previously, BoldFace asked author Nina Munteanu about her experience working with editors. This time we posed the same questions to Jeremy Tankard, an award-winning Vancouver-based children’s author and illustrator. His books include Grumpy Bird and It’s a Tiger! and he recently illustrated Here Comes Destructosaurus!

Q&A conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

Overall, what’s your experience like as an author who’s been edited?

Nothing but positive, so far! I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the biggest names in children’s publishing. They bring a LOT of experience and award-winning books to the table, so I’m all ears when they open their mouths to comment on my work. I haven’t been led astray, so far.

What is it like as an author to work, say, months, or even years, on a book, then have an editor read it critically and suggest (sometimes major) changes?

It can be a strange experience, sometimes: you think you know what you’ve done, but then someone can give you whole new ways of seeing it. I think, sometimes, as a writer, you can get much too close to your work. I rely heavily on my editor having a fresh and more distant perspective on things. She can see the big picture, whereas I’ve got hung up on details. Occasionally, editors have suggested major changes or rewrites, and those are certainly frustrating (or at least not what I want to hear at the time). However, I have a great deal of trust in their experience; so, while sometimes I’m not told what I want to hear, I know that they’re probably right. I know that they make suggestions because they believe it will make my book better—and I want it to be the best that it can be. (more…)

Q&A: Author Nina Munteanu on the author/editor relationship

What do authors think about editors? What do authors think makes the difference between a good editor and a great editor?

nina-and-siko-jan2014In May, BoldFace asked award-winning author Elizabeth Berg about her experience working with editors. This time we posed the same questions to Nina Munteanu, a Halifax-based writing instructor and author of The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now! and the short story collection Natural Selection.

Q&A conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

Overall, what’s your experience like as an author who’s been edited?

It’s been exceptional! That is, when I was being edited by professional editors. At various times in my career, I’ve had my works edited by individuals who ranged in their level of understanding of “story” and editing within the genre: colleagues, other writers, and novice editors. At times, it was disastrous. What this experience showed me was the importance of matching editor with writer. This is why in the industry we often refer to this linkage as a “marriage.” In some very important ways it is just like a marriage: a synergistic partnership of mutual respect, a shared vision, and enthusiasm with the ultimate goal of taking something and making it better. As a writer, I entrust my sacred creation to an individual who I pray will respect and uphold my voice and my vision, yet not shy away from suggesting those improvements that go beyond simple copy edits. When this happens, what you always get is something greater than what it was before. A well-matched editor and writer will together enhance a project into something beautiful. It is truly a wonderful thing to behold and experience.

What is it like as an author to work, say, months, or even years, on a book, then have an editor read it critically and suggest (sometimes major) changes?

Except for my very first book, I’ve not had an editor suggest major changes to my works…yet. However, the changes that they have suggested have always resulted in obvious improvement. I welcome the input of a good editor. In a typical edit, I find that I am in total agreement with 95 per cent of their suggestions and edits. And the remaining 5 per cent, they usually concede. (more…)