1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    job of the editor

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rumwriter, Mar 17, 2013.

    What exactly is the editor's job? This is for novels, but also magazines/journals. Do they only check for errors? Or do they edit content at all?
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Google "types of editors" publishing - there are several types (acquisitions, developmental, line...). Some work with content, others proofread for grammar - everything will at some point be looked at.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    A good editor edits to strengthen the writer's style and voice. This can be done by suggesting that the author rephrase sentences, substitute a stronger word for a weaker one, etc. Editors for magazines also decide which stories they want to publish.

    I'm sure most editors don't check for errors. They are busy enough as it is. Any manuscript with grammatical/spelling errors is probably going to get tossed right away.
     
  4. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Would an editor with a sharp eye not recognise a great story, a great seller and turn a blind eye to bad punctuation? Or would he be blind enough to say "Wrong place for a semi colon - BIN!" Is it not his job to find a rough diamond and polish it up?
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Check out The Paris Review interview of Robert Gottlieb, an editor who has worked with some of the best writers of the modern era. Try this link.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A submissions editor is a special type of editor whose job is to screen incoming manuscripts to select those suitable for publication. As part of that task, he or she will take note of how much editing will be required to correct various errors to meet the quality standards of the publishing house or periodical. He or she will not perform those corrections, but will estimate the cost to polish the piece.

    Staff editors will proofread and correct manuscripts, and other editors will review the final typeset proofs before they are sent off for printing.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If the editor has a teacup of dozens of near-flawless diamonds on his desk, and bushel baskets full of dirty rocks all over the rest of his office, why would he turn away from the diamonds and start digging through the rocks? Yes, if he got out his toothbrush and shined up every single rock in every single bucket, then there's a modest chance that eventually he might find that one of those rocks could become a better diamond than anything in the teacup. But before "eventually" comes, he'll have been fired for refusing to pick out a diamond.

    The idea that an editor should recognize a great story with bad writing or punctuation assumes that great stories are rare, and also that an editor can tell which ones will be not only great, but breakout bestseller great.

    But there are tons of great stories. If an agent or editor has a dozen, or two dozen, or two hundred, great stories that are flawlessly edited and presented, and he can only take on one, then why would he turn away from _all_ of them to evaluate the stories that were sent by writers who declined to take the trouble to polish their own contributions?

    Edited to add: I forgot the breakout bestseller part. If an editor could tell what makes a book a breakout bestseller, then it might be worthwhile to hire dozens and dozens of people to read and evaluate every single manuscript from beginning to end, to find the multimillion-dollar winner. But he can't tell that; if he rejects one of the shiny ones for one of the muddy ones, it might turn out that the shiny one is the one that would have been the winner.
     
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  8. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    So the submissions editor says "Wow this is great but the guy has no idea what a comma is. It will cost £X to put it right and hands it up the chain if the sums add up?

    So really, if you have a great story and real marketability, you don't have to worry that your book is not perfected to the state of press ready?
     
  9. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm a soccer coach and scout. It is my job to upturn every rock in the search for a good player who might be great. We go through players like sand through a sieve looking for gold. I just would have thought literary editors / agents would be the same.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You will be competing with other writers with great stories who do take great pains to ensure their manuscript is as clean as possible. Don't kid yourself. You need to be virtually compulsive about grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage.

    You wouldn't buy a piece of furniture that required extensive touch up, would you? Even if you were willing to correct a minor scratch or replace a damaged pull.
     
  11. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd be willing to correct a minor scratch if I thought I could sell that piece of furniture for a whole lot more.

    I'm not trying to be lazy here and hand up or send in any old crap in the hope somebody will fix it. It just sounds from some people here that agents or editors look for excuses not to send a manuscript up the chain. Like they are afraid it won't sell and falls back on them.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Submissions editors receive far too many submissions to publish, as a rule, and many are very competently written. So you bet your bippy they will use easy criteria to winnow the incoming flow.
     
  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Consider your submission a job interview. If you're going after a really really good job, one that you really really want, and you know there are 100 other applicants, are you going to show up in a clean but rumpled suit? Don't think so...
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But what if the number of players to evaluate doubled? Tripled? Went up ten times, a hundred times? Would you still be able to spend plenty of time with every single player? Would your employer happily hire all the staff needed for that, irrespective of the cost?
     
  15. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ok if you want to use my scenario - i think there are a lot more people able to kick a ball than pick up a pen. We may go through 3,4,5000 before sending one for trials but we need to look at everybody regardless if they have matching socks or not. We look for raw talent, rough diamonds. We don't look for the finished article because it's not there - we have to dig one up and polish it and polish it and polish it and fingers crossed...it passes muster... Nothing stops us looking.

    It seems in the literary world they are just too lazy to read or way too greedy to spend money. It's all about the bottom line. You should watch teh JK Rowling story - complete fluke she got published - soo many editors turned their noses up to her - even her agent didn't want her initially...
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    What, not everybody gets to go for trials? How unfair!

    :)

    I suspect that the time that you spend with each of those several thousand is not the hours that it would require to evaluate a manuscript. I suspect that when deciding who to send for trials you evaluate their skills, and narrow them based on skills. Grammar and punctuation are non-trivial skills for a writer.

    I missed the "lot more people". Many many people have a computer and a printer. A lot of them think they can write a novel. I suspect that you underestimate the sheer volume of submissions,
     
  17. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    but we "look" for a glimpse of what might be - not eliminate someone for not wearing matching socks...
     
  18. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    and a lot more people have feet than printers.. i think you underestimate the number of people who want to kick a ball professionally
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Matching socks? Do you really believe that is comparable to sloppy grammar, misspellings, and misused words?

    Comparing it instead to walking into an interview unprepared for the questions you would be expected to be able to answer. Not because you don't know the answers, but that you didn't brush up on them so you had to dig for the answers. In that case, you would hesitate, turn red, and not appear as competent as you could.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But grammar and punctuation are a skill, not a decoration. I could say that for you to care about running and kicking is the equivalent of grading the kids on their dancing ability. But it's not - it's an essential skill, right?

    And I'll bet that you care at least a little tiny bit about how well the kid can take directino, right? If a kid isn't in the mood for demonstrating his skill today, do you change your plane reservations and wait until tomorrow? If he wants to demonstrate his skills at reciting rap lyrics before he'll kick a ball, do you wait? If he throws a tantrum and attacks another kid or a coach, is that fine?

    Running and kicking are skills that to a fair extent depend on things like the quality of the kid's coach, and what age they started playing at, and their birthday (have you ever read the bit on Outliers about January birthdays for athletes?), and how supportive their parents are. I could argue that you should get each of those five thousand kids a private coach and a counselor, to even them all out before you pick one. That would be fairer, right?

    But it wouldn't be realistic. And by the time it was done, your team would no longer exist, because you'd have no players. You have to do the best job you can at identifying talent with the resources and time that you have.

    And so do agents and publishers. If you do devote several individual hours to each and every one of those five thousand kids, and let them give you information by doing interpretive dance because they're not in the mood to fill out a form, I'll agree that your system is amazingly thorough. I'm betting, though, that you don't?
     
  21. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Matching socks?

    I'm not talking about the hopeful, the dreamy. those without a clue - I'm talking about soccer scouts/coaches seeing past the failings, the mistakes and the shortcomings and looking to the what ifs, the possibilities and the cliched rough diamonds

    I really don't see what you guys have to argue about - two different industries - one looks for the great that-could-be and one looking for the great-that-is...

    I don't know what you may call this but I call it short sighted, greedy, and unwilling - not prepared to invest in a possibility... or maybe you're just being apologists for the whole closed-shop business... not sure...
     
  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Grammar and structure are hardly as inconsequential as matching socks. Whether a footballer has matching socks or not doesn't matter because that does not hinder the footballer's ability to kick a ball or play with team spirit etc.

    Whether a writer can write without grammar mistakes is hardly the same. If a writer cannot write with perfect grammar (or at least near-perfect), that does very much hinder how well she will be able to tell the story.

    Rather than matching socks, you ought to be comparing the grammar issue with say, a footballer who wants to play who's missing one leg, and he wants to join the regular team. You don't have fun saying no to him, but the missing leg does rather affect your ability to play ball.

    Edit: forgot to say, the fact is, if a writer cannot write with near-perfect grammar by herself, and you as the agent take her on, you're looking at years of correcting the same things. A writer's grammar doesn't improve very quickly, and agents are not looking to train writers - they're looking to SELL writers. I guess that's the difference. You use football as an example but you're looking to train, therefore you can tolerate more faults in the players. I don't think it's fair to call agents greedy based on this - if you as a writer are looking to train, you don't submit to agents, you go get yourself a creative writing MA or something and find a tutor.

    Likewise, a footballer who wants to join the national team will not be able to afford as many faults as he would if he were only trying to get into the team for training. It would be a joke, if a footballer who can barely kick a ball tries to join the national football team, and it would be ridiculous for me to then call the national football team "clearly greedy and unwilling to look for the potential in the players and look past their faults."
     
  23. lettuce head
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    lettuce head Active Member

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    It depends on the particular role of that editor. If an editor has trouble understanding the story due to obvious grammatical errors, it isn't the fault of the editor. There is the old saying, "Always make the next person's job easier." If a writer leaves an editor with a mountain to climb, why should they bother?

    Unless there is a relationship already established, sending an editor crap simply isn't a good idea. It should be solid work. At least hire an editor to correct the obvious problems before asking a publisher to wade through unpolished work.
     
  24. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mckk - are you for real - comparing a footballer with one leg to a prolific storyteller who puts a comma in the wrong place.... pfffft

    Lettuce Head - A professional editor who has waded through all sorts of dust as well as gold over many years has trouble if a full stop is missing?

    Are you guys serious? If you read back you'll see I made the arguement that it seems editors, submissions editors or otherwise, are looking for excuses NOT to pass manuscripts up the line - I also think Cogito agreed....
     
  25. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    And I call your refusal to hire a private coach (at your own expense) for every one of those five thousand kids, and to give each kid at least forty hours of individual evaluation time, equally short sighted, greedy, and unwilling.

    Except I don't. I call it realistic. I'm prepared to understand that there's a limit to what an organization can do. You apparently aren't.

    I should add: If you have a hundred kids that are at a high level of skill and talent, and a hundred that are at a lower level, do you go out of your way to avoid the more skilled/talented kids? Because that seems to be what you're demanding.
     

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