Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Challenges of Editing

I've always enjoyed editing, both my own work and others. So many of my fellow writers hate their 'internal editors.' They struggle to harness their creative side without the editor's constant commentary. I actually look at things a little differently and see a difference between the internal editor and the internal critic.

My internal editor helps me to stay focused on the writing. While she sometimes whispers in my ear as I'm writing the first draft material, she mostly speaks when I'm reviewing yesterday's pages. She's astute without being harsh and lets me make some minor corrections which quiets the inner perfectionist. (Yes, it gets crowded in my head.)

The inner critic is an infrequent guest. That's a good thing. She is a cynical and pessimistic voice and while I don't like her hanging around very often, she can provide balance to my 'susie-sunshine' optimism.

So, back to editing. I love to edit. That inner perfectionist likes nothing better than to hover over a manuscript with a red pen in hand. There's noting malicious about it; it's all in service to the work. Enjoying the process of editing allows me to slash through narrative, characters, and plotline with a kind of manic glee. Editing is the difference between a garden choked with weeds and beautiful tomatoes by the end of summer.

One of the biggest challenges in editing someone else's work is making these kinds of changes and corrections while staying true to the writer's original intent and voice. I had two different, but related experiences of this recently.

Earlier in the month, I blogged about the student from abroad we are housing for the year. I offered to help edit her papers, knowing that English grammar would be a bear for her, even though her spoken English is wonderful. I warned her not to get upset about the amount of red pen on her pages. For the most part, her writing is clear. She just makes some very typical mistakes of non-native English speakers: gender disagreement (English nouns don't have a gender, most other languages' nouns have gender assigned), subject-verb number disagreement, misplaced modifiers, missing articles, and errors of verb tense.

Earlier this week, I volunteered to help proofread articles for our local middle school's student-run newspaper. The challenge of editing children's work is to avoid re-writing it in an adult voice. Sometimes it's hard to decide if a particular word or sentence choice is appropriate for the developmental level of the writer and thus should not be changed even if your hand is itching for the red pen (or mouse for the 'strike out'). I found myself leaving comments for the writers and posing questions, rather than making wholesale changes.

All in all, I enjoyed both experiences. My internal editor was quite happy to have extra work to do. She's been pestering me to write more.


1 comment:

  1. I also love editing ... it's where I think my strengths lie, where I can bring raw material to the boil. :-)