An Editor’s Perspective: Editing = Respect


Kim Pearson, SCN Editorial Service, #2

[Story Circle Network’s Editorial Service gives you easy access to a team of
professional editors. These editors are attuned to the stories women write. Your manuscript deserves respect…the best treatment…and an editor who understands you. That’s why SCN Editorial Service exists. When you’re ready for an editor, we’re ready for you.

Kim Pearson is one of these professional editors and she’s sharing some of her insights with you about the process of editing.]

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Don’t Believe All Legends
You may have heard a legend about Mozart, which was given glorious life in the 1984 movie Amadeus. The legend says that Mozart could write perfect music without ever having to amend, change, fix, tweak, or rewrite. Music so beautiful the angels might have written it flowed out of him, his fingers propelled by God.

I never really believed that legend. I would bet money that Mozart revised and edited, just like everyone else. But even if it was true of Mozart that he needed no editing or revisions – I am not Mozart. Nor is anyone else I know. When I write, I know that I will think of ways to make my writing more compelling, that I’ll go back and streamline, chop, highlight, fix sloppy phrasing, you name it. I will have to self-edit, revise, and then send it out to be edited by someone else.

Professional Writers Need Editing Too
Professional writers are comfortable with this. But I am a ghostwriter as well as an editor, and I write for people who are not professionals. A challenge of ghostwriting is that I must share interim rough drafts with my clients, so they know how things are progressing. I need their feedback on whether I have their authentic voice, and if I’ve got their facts straight. But because my clients are not professional writers, they often have a totally unrealistic idea of what a professional writer does. They expect these first drafts to be polished creations with no mistakes and prose that would make Shakespeare weep.

In other words, they think that I, and other professional book people, are Mozarts. They think we can make magic words zip right off our fingers, without having to edit or revise, ever. Isn’t that what they are paying us for?

I must explain to them, often more than once, that this is the exact opposite of what does happen. Professional writers know that the first (or the second or third) version will not be the final one, and that revisions and edits are the very factors that make them a professional.

If you are just learning the art of writing, don’t believe this legend about Mozart! It is not true. He too revised, rewrote, edited, and learned from other composers. Editing or revising simply means that you respect your art.

I learned this valuable truth young, when I was an arrogant high-school student. You can read the story of how I learned in my post on the Women’s Memoirs blog.

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Kim Pearson: I’ll be sharing some of my insights as an editor in this and future blogs. As a member of SCN’s Editorial Service, I look forward to the opportunity of editing a book or chapter or article that you feel is ready for help from an editor who will give you detailed suggestions to correct, smooth, polish, enhance, or fix your writing so that it sizzles or soothes, and captivates your readers.

Click Here for more information on SCN’s Editorial Service.

My advice to writers?When I teach writing, I share my 5-step writing process, which works with any subject and any kind of project, from blog posts to books:

1. Write everything you know, or think you know; everything you feel, or think you feel; everything you’ve done, or wish you’d done (or wish you hadn’t done)—in short, write everything. Basically this means: do not censor as you write. Editing comes later.
2. Read what you wrote, and look for the recurring themes or threads. I promise they are there. Look until you find them.
3. Identify one major and one complimentary minor theme.
4. Remove everything and anything that does not fit or enhance either the major or minor theme. This is difficult. You may feel that your heart has been ripped from your body by a sadistic monkey and eaten by a pack of cold-eyed wolves. Be ruthless and do it anyway. (This is where a conceptual editor can help—let her be the sadistic monkey.)
5. Organize and expand on whatever is left.

Kim Pearson’s background information. Kim is an award-winning author, a ghostwriter, and an editor. Her services have helped many become authors of polished, professional, and compelling books and articles. She has ghostwritten or edited over 40 books, which tell the stories of a wide variety of people and cover a broad range of topics, from saxophones to finance, city histories to hypnotherapy, psychic horses to constipation, and many points in-between.

Her own books include: Making History: How to Remember, Record, Interpret and Share the Events of Your Life; You Can Be an Author, Even If You’re Not a Writer; Dog Park Diary: The Social Round of Goody Beagle; and Eating Mythos Soup. Kim teaches workshops and teleclasses on writing, history, and storytelling, and writes two blogs about writing.

One response to “An Editor’s Perspective: Editing = Respect

  1. Great article, Kim. I often tell my students that revision IS writing. When we learn to love the revision process — the discovery of themes and obsessions, the struggle with finding our story, the necessary cutting and refining — we learn to love writing. Amen. 🙂

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