Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Power Of A Good Editor

I've said it before - I'll say it again.

A writer should never underestimate the power of a good editor.

As a writer I have been extremely lucky to have worked with a number of great editors over the years, both in my fiction and non-fiction endeavors. An article posted on The Mark News yesterday is another good example of the way in which an editor's "red pen" and fine-tuning can turn a well-written piece into something even better. Or a beautiful raw mineral into a wonderfully polished gem.

Yes, writers are endowed with more ability than ever before to get their words out there directly, to self-publish, to push their words onto platforms that didn't exist when I first sat down at a manual typewriter and hammered out words, hoping to one day see them in print.

And as much as I admire -- and take advantage of -- the ability to "go direct" in getting my words out there (I've been blogging here since 2005), I am continually reminded of the extreme value of the mostly hidden work that a good editor brings.

This blog, for example, is the perfect example because I rarely ever edit my own writing, never-mind have an editor go through my posts before they're released into the world. My blog is typically a "first draft" attempt to get down some thoughts that are kicking around in my head. It actually started, for me, as a way to "warm up" to my early AM writing sessions They are, thus, mostly raw and unedited pieces of my writing - an online sketchpad or writing journal.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post called A Smudge of Eink documenting my frustration with an ebook reader that had "died" on me. Believing the article was worthy of being read by a larger audience, I sent it over to an editor at The Mark News where I have written a series of articles related to the book industry. It had been a while since I'd done an article for them and I felt this particular one would fit nicely with my others.

Like before, when the editor sent back the changes made for my approval, I was impressed with the fine polishing done to my raw words; with the expertise in smoothing out some slightly awkward bumps in the prose, with re-arranging words into a finer flow of text.

A couple of examples:

My post title: A Smudge of Eink. I, of course, think that's a cute title, conveying my original discovery and frustration with a technology that I have been enjoying.

The Mark News title: The E-Smudge of Death. This revised title, of course, is a more dramatic statement - it serves to pull the reader in and immediately lands on the initial feeling of shock and terror I felt when discovering my ereader had died.

And next, just a snapshot showing the editorial modifications on a single paragraph.

You can see how these simple yet important edits don't change the intent of the original prose, but neatly refine it into something more readable.

And that's part of the power of what a good editor can do to a piece of writing.

This particular edit is thanks to Emily Burke, Managing Editor and Sarah Murphy, Copy Editor at The Mark News: Two fine members of The Mark News editorial team that I've had the pleasure of working with over the past couple of years.

As I've said, I have been lucky, over the years, to have worked with some great editors. And I look forward to continuing to enjoy the benefits of these silent, mostly hidden-from-view publishing world agents who revise, suggest and work with writers to create much better pieces of writing for readers to enjoy.


Steph said...

You are the stuff an editor's dreams are made of. It's so refreshing to read this, when otherwise I've often heard how a writer's work doesn't need any editing. Sigh. That usually means it really does!

Mark Leslie said...

Thanks, Steph. I'll be the first one to admit that my writing inevitably benefits from the hands of a good editor.