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Editors vs. writers

Probably the most useful panel I attended at Balticon was the one titled “Are the Editor and Copyeditor the Writer’s Enemies?” In spite of panel participants being clumped together at one end of a huge boardroom-style table, with the audience around the rest of the table (whose idea was that for a panel?), the session went very well. Free lance editor Ally Peltier moderated while writers Dave Williams, Joshua Palmatier, and Jeri Smith-Ready related their experiences with the editing process.

The panel defined the editing process as substantive edits (changes in plot, setting, pacing, etc.), line edits (less drastic changes, such as in word usage), and copy-editing. The copy-editing stage was done last, to impose a house style and ensure logic and consistency in the story. The final QA step is proofing, which is not really editing at all.

All the writers agreed that only a bad or indifferent editor is the writer's enemy. An important extra step that is often needed is fact checking, and all the writers agreed that an author should find out whether or not his publisher has hired anyone to check the facts in the story.

It was interesting to note that because their books were all from different houses, the writers reported some differences in how publishers' editing cycles worked. Dave Williams' second book, The Burning Skies is from Bantam Spectra, Josh Palmatier's Throne of Amenkor series is with DAW, Jeri Smith-Ready's latest paranormal romance/fantasy Bad to the Bone is from Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster). Because DAW is a much smaller house than the others, the editor is also the copyeditor. Interestingly, she still edited in stages, almost as if she were two people.

It was a fun panel, and very informative. After you have been to a dozen or so conventions, the panels begin to run together but this one stood out.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 26th, 2009 07:37 pm (UTC)
Interesting. Thanks for sharing :)
May. 26th, 2009 07:42 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! I was intrigued that while the writers experienced variations in the process-- in the number of rounds of editing, for example-- they all agreed the editor's role was crucial.
May. 29th, 2009 04:20 pm (UTC)
editing process
Hi Karen! Ally Peltier here. I just wanted to say that I'm glad you enjoyed the panel--I certainly enjoyed moderating it, though I agree about the table set-up. Very odd. It was not like that last year.

I also wanted to make a slight correction to your post regarding the editorial process. The "stages" or levels of editing go more like this: developmental/substantive (some people consider these a bit different, though in a publishing house situation they are both typically done by the primary editor), copy editing, proofreading. Line editing is a type of editing that falls somewhere between the first and second stages and depending on the house may be done by either the primary editor or copy editor. It is not typically a stage unto itself.

Most often, these three levels are handled by three different people (editor, copy editor, proofreader). Though as you noted, in Joshua's case his editor is also his copy editor--but this is uncommon. In fact, in a decade in the biz, it's the first time I've heard of it. This seems to have worked really well for him, though generally speaking I think there are benefits to having these levels supervised by different people: every pair of fresh eyes helps improve a book, I think.

Proofreading is definitely a kind of editing, though traditionally it is restricted to the final pass of page proofs or "blues"--the very last step before printing--as opposed to the manuscript. Proofreading is typically restricted to typographical errors, formatting problems, and such since at this last stage you're (supposed to be) making only very minor changes. But if you define "editing" as the process of reviewing and marking a work for changes, then it would still count.

I actually wrote an article for The Writer magazine that describes types of editors in depth, though with a focus on freelance editors. You can find it in the April 09 issue.

Thanks again for attending the panel!

May. 30th, 2009 02:23 am (UTC)
Re: editing process
And thank YOU for chiming in!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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