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By Nina Munteanu
In my previous article, “The writer-editor relationship, part 1: Editors preparing writers,” I focused on clarifying expectations between editors and writers from the editor’s point of view. Part 2, this article, focuses on this same relationship from the writer’s point of view.
Clarity of expectation, honesty, and mutual respect are key features in a productive and successful writer-editor relationship. Writers expect editors to inform them if their expectations are out of line, and writers rely on editors’ honesty and transparency to let them know if they are comfortable with the task being asked of them. This, of course, is predicated on the editor’s full understanding of what that task is; again, it is the responsibility of the editor to determine the scope of work from the author—just as a doctor will ask key questions to diagnose a patient. If an editor has reservations, caveats, or limitations with the project, these should be shared upfront. Honesty is always best, and it should start right from the beginning so that mutual respect is cemented.
Below is a list of five things that writers wish editors knew—and followed.
1. Edit to preserve the writer’s voice through open and respectful dialogue
Losing your voice to the “hackings of an editor” is perhaps a beginner writer’s greatest fear. This makes sense, given that a novice writer’s voice is still in its infancy; it is tentative, evolving, and striving for an identity. While a professional editor is not likely to “hack,” the fear may remain well-founded.
A novice’s voice is often tangled and enmeshed in a chaos of poor narrative style, grammatical errors, and a general misunderstanding of the English language. Editors trying to improve a novice writer’s narrative flow without interfering with voice are faced with a challenge. Teasing out the nuances of creative intent amid the turbulent flow of awkward and obscure expression requires finesse—and consideration. Good editors recognize that every writer has a voice, no matter how weak or ill-formed, and that voice is the culmination of a writer’s culture, beliefs, and experiences. Editing to preserve a writer’s voice—particularly when it is weak and not fully formed—needs a “soft touch” that invites more back-and-forth than usual, uses more coaching-style language, and relies on good feedback. (more…)
By Nina Munteanu
As indie publishing soars to new heights and successes, writers are looking more and more to freelance editors to help them create works of merit that will stand out in the market. Whether this process is seamless and productive or fraught with difficulties depends on the relationship established between editor and writer at the outset and throughout.
The writer-editor relationship, like any relationship, works best when communication between parties is transparent and clear. What ultimately drives misunderstanding—or, alternatively, harmony—is expectations and how they are met. Clarifying expectations on both sides is paramount to creating a professional and productive relationship with few hitches.
Indie authors often come to editors with unclear and, at times, unreasonable or unrealistic expectations on services. Many writers know very little about the kind of editing we do and the different levels of effort (time and associated fee) required. They do not understand the difference between “copy editing” and “structural editing,” particularly as it pertains to their own work. In fact, many indie writers don’t even know what their manuscript requires. This is because of two things: (1) they can’t objectively assess their own work, particularly in relation to market needs, and (2) many authors haven’t sufficiently considered their “voice” or brand and matched it to a relevant target market. Both of these will influence how the writer comes into the relationship and the nature of their expectations. (more…)
By Nina Munteanu
I’m a writer and an editor. I’ve written and published novels, short stories, and non-fiction books with traditional publishing houses and indie publishers. I’ve also self-published. As editor, I serve as the in-house copy editor for a publishing house in the United States and have acted as acquisition editor for several anthologies put out by a local indie publisher. I also coach novice writers to publication and edit in that capacity. You could say I know the industry from many angles and perspectives. That’s been good for me, because this industry is a moving target, and it’s good to triangulate on a moving object. The entire publishing industry is evolving, and it’s a slippery evolution.
Even the words we use are slippery. Indie. Hybrid. Publisher.
Many people, like award-winning author Kristine Kathryn Rusch, when they use the terms indie writer and indie publishing, include what some call self-publishing in their definitions of indie, “because so many [professional] writers who are not with traditional publishers have started their own presses. It’s not accurate to lump all writers who are not following the traditional route into the self-publishing basket any longer.” According to Rusch, an indie publisher is anyone who is not a traditional publisher. For this article, I’ve adopted Rusch’s definition to provide the full range of expectations for editors working with writers in the indie field. I define a traditional publisher as an established and often larger publishing house or press that (1) follows traditional submission criteria; (2) does not charge writers; (3) pays out royalties; and (4) employs in-house editors.
Indie writing and publishing can then be described in several ways depending on where the writer submits and by what mechanism and what model they use. All of these will affect a writer’s needs and perceptions for an editor and, in turn, an editor’s expectations as well. (more…)
By Nina Munteanu
When I first started writing stories—many more years ago than I care to admit—I knew that I was a poor speller, had generally bad syntax, and often misused grammar. Someone, who believed in my capacity to tell a good story despite my shortcomings in delivery, handed me a slim copy of William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White’s classic guide The Elements of Style. This elegant 105-page book includes elementary rules of usage, elementary principles of composition, a few matters of form, commonly misused words and expressions, and an approach to style.
It is “still a little book, small enough and important enough to carry in your pocket, as I carry mine,” said author and journalist Charles Osgood. And it has helped me out of a few messes. Let’s look at some examples of commonly misused words and expressions. These words and expressions, Strunk and White tell us, “are not so much bad English as bad style, the commonplaces of careless writing.” Being mindful of our language and our style can often make the difference in a publisher or editor’s perception of our professionalism.
Here are some of my favourites, in some cases as much because of Strunk and White’s pithy comments as the actual utility of the advice. Have you used any of these?
Our first members’ meeting of the year for EAC’s Toronto branch is coming up soon, so we wanted to give you a taste of what to expect from this month’s speaker. Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of award-nominated speculative novels, short stories, and non-fiction. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Nina has been coaching writers through the process of successful publication for over a decade and gives workshops to writers on editing, marketing, and promotion.
In Nina’s presentation, “Keeping Up with the Changing Face of Publishing: What it Means for Freelance Editors,” you’ll learn about different forms of publishing (including self-publishing and indie publishing), publishing myths, where to find new editing opportunities, and how to market and promote yourself to writers who need your help.
January 28, 2014
Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, Room 318 (southwest corner of Spadina Avenue and Bloor Street West)
7 PM: Open discussion session for new and prospective EAC members
7:30 PM: Information session and program (Nina Munteanu’s presentation)
9 PM: Mix-and-mingle over coffee, tea, and cake
Meetings are FREE for EAC members and students, and $10 for all other attendees.
Q&A conducted by Laura Godfrey
Why do you think self-publishing and indie publishing have grown more popular recently compared to larger, more traditional book publishers?
I think it’s because we’ve grown out of that constricted and limited model. The traditional model consisted of the following scenario: a reputable publishing house screened works by hopeful writers and determined what got published and how, based on the current market; books were typically sold to bookstores via a distributor; what the bookstore didn’t sell, it sent back to the publisher. Publishers relied on reviews from professional sites and traditional marketing to sell their top authors.