Friday, June 30, 2006

KB: Enter the Dragon . . . Er, Editor . . .




Okay. I have a confession to make.

I am an editor.

Yes, yes, I know. It’s shameful. Frightening, even. But there you have it. I am an editor. One of those dreaded people about whom so may writers have said, “Editors! Can’t live with ‘em, can’t shoot ‘em!” As hard as writing is—and we all know that’s HARD—most editors understand it’s harder and more painful to be edited. But here’s the deal: writers need editors.

Yes, you do.

Now hang on. Before you string me up, let me explain. Yes, I am, first and foremost, an editor. But I’m also a writer. A novelist, even. (How’s that for schizo? Some days I wanna string me up, too!) So you’d think, wouldn’t you, that being an editor, my writing would be remarkably clean and succinct, that all the characters would make sense and be consistent (those who started out blonde on p. 1 would still be blonde on p. 325), that there wouldn’t be any loose ends or leaps of logic, and that there certainly wouldn’t be any misspellings or grammatical errors…

Uh…not. SO not.

My writing, just like everyone else’s writing (yes, yours too), isn’t perfect. Not because I don’t know what I’m doing (at least…I hope that’s not the reason!), but because you can’t write and edit at the same time. Not outside of a rubber room, anyway. Like almost every other writer out there, I’m too close to the story or characters to see the challenges.

It’s really pretty simple. Creative minds do wonderful, amazing things. They form worlds where they didn’t exist; they birth people from the dust of life experience and imagination; they bring the murkiness of life and faith and relationships into crystal clarity for one brief, shining moment; and, God willing, they change readers’ perception. Maybe even their lives. That’s a lot for anyone to do. Accomplishing all that means you have to let the creativity FLOW.

Now you and I both know there’s no greater creativity crusher than editing. Not that editing isn’t a creative process (I’ll get to that in a minute), but it’s primarily detail-focused. Whether it’s big picture details (show vs. tell, characterization, plot, pacing, word choice, etc.) or the minutiae (spelling, grammar, etc.), you have to use a different part of the brain to edit. And while some writers can do that, and do it well, I don’t know of many, myself included, who can do it on their own work. Not the way it often needs to be done.

Enter the editor.

Wait! Don’t run away! I promise, it won’t be as painful as you might think. But just so you can catch your breath and calm your heart, let’s take a break and let the editor enter in my next entry.

Okay, relax. You’re safe for now.

Everything you want to know about Karen Ball (and probably way more) can be found at www.Karenballbooks.com

20 Comments:

At 12:24 AM, Blogger Ernie W. said...

Oh good, I thought I was the only one who biffed while writing. Okay, my interest is piqued, my heart rate has slowed, you can now bring out the editor....

By the way, looking forward to your session at the OCW summer conference.
Ernie

 
At 2:18 AM, Blogger Bonnie Calhoun said...

If you want to be scarey, you need a much more threatening picture...LOL..You look like Peck's bad girl, ready for mischief, not terror! LOL!

 
At 7:53 AM, Blogger Karen said...

What fun! Confessions of an editor. Can't wait for part two.

 
At 8:50 AM, Blogger Lori Benton said...

Hey Karen. Great post! LOL. I've taken the sage advice of several writers and editors to not edit myself _too_ severely while writing a first draft... which makes the process a lot more fun. But, oh boy, somebody's gonna have a mess to wade through in a few months.

Yipes. I think it's me!

Lori

 
At 9:37 AM, Blogger Domino said...

Funny how the work I do to create this new world on my page has errors that I can't see. Writing is really fun for me, but I know my pages are not perfect. I get excited about the story, and then stop writing and wonder if any of it will stay in the final draft.

Yes, I know I need professional help... I mean, you know, a fantastic editor.

 
At 9:41 AM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

Thanks for a great post, Karen. According to many, you're one of the best editors in ICRS. One of the many nifty little things I've heard about you and which I've adhered to in my writing, is, you change as many attributions to beats as possible.

Thanks for the good information in your post.

A secret desire of mine would be to come across a Max Perkins or a Tae Hohoff (Eugenia Price's editor) or an Elizabeth Sherrill (Catherine Marshall's editor for Christy--who worked nine years on it). And not only come across, but her/him to latch onto me, and me to latch onto her/him. If such a thing could happen...

Oh, the stories that could come forth, well-shaped and honed and then heart-hitting.

Wake up, Kristy, from your dream.
But it's not a dream. It's a desire.

And doesn't the Good Book say, "He shall give you the desires of your heart?"

Yes!

 
At 10:06 AM, Anonymous Michael Ehret said...

Karen: Oh to one day have an editor about which I could say, "I want to shoot her!" :)

Cue the music: "Such are the dreams of an everyday writer..."

 
At 10:20 AM, Blogger eileen said...

Hmmm, is this a book in the making? Or another, "I have a castle" moment? Look forward to part two!

 
At 11:04 AM, Blogger Patty said...

Yahoo! Welcome, Karen!

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

Tell us more, tell us more. What other secrets can you divulge?

Okay, someone educate me, please. "Change attribution to beats"? I don't mind looking silly but I have no idea what this means.

 
At 11:36 AM, Blogger ~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Yup, what KB wisely says is actually true. I just painstakingly finished my own rewrite in response to her 12-page (single space!) letter indubitably pointing out things that obviously needed tweaking in Coral Moon. Karen, you are absolutely the best. Always, always, you amazingly, consistently make my novels better.

Even if you do hate adverbs.

 
At 11:39 AM, Blogger Angela said...

"Change attributions to beats" just means:

She glared at him. "I hate you."

is better than

"I hate you," she said bitingly.

(Eeek! An adverb!)

Listen to Karen Ball. The woman knoweth whereof she speaketh.

~~Angie

 
At 11:52 AM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

Thanks Angie! I get it. Something I need to work on.

 
At 7:43 PM, Blogger Ane Mulligan said...

Do editors have gold fish moments? LOL I must be freaky. I like editors - y'all make us look so good.

 
At 8:20 PM, Blogger Sharon Hinck said...

I'm still humming "Oh, the editor and the writer should be friends" (tune from Oklahoma's "Farmer and the Cowman") that you graciously taught at Mt. Hermon a year past. My work is much stronger because of my sharp editors, so most of the time I happily sing their praises. But as a concession to my cranky writer side, I allow myself 24 hours to grouse after receiving my editor's notes. After a day of whining to my office walls that it will take FOREVER to implement the changes, I shake it off and dive in, and happily discover the editor is brilliant after all.

 
At 7:53 AM, Anonymous BJ said...

One of the few writers around who can make me laugh in an e-mail, cry in a novel, and sometimes do both on the same page...

Welcome, Karen. So glad to see you here.

BJ

 
At 9:08 AM, Blogger C.J. Darlington said...

I'm wondering -- what in your opinion, Karen, defines a good editor? I was talking to a family member about this just yesterday, and she said she believes a good editor is one who can refrain from infusing herself/himself into the author's work, and yet have the ability to know whether a story's working or not (and be able to give specific changes to make it better). It seems to me that this would be the biggest struggle of being an editor. How do you keep from editing your voice into a writer's work? Is it it something you need to always have in the forefront of your mind, or does it come naturally to you?

 
At 3:56 PM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

Oooh, good question CJ! I find myself with this problem when I help my son edit his school papers. How about it Karen?

 
At 3:16 AM, Blogger Dineen A. Miller said...

Wooohooo! I'm jazzed to see you here, Karen! Very cool. Can't wait to read more.

 
At 11:33 AM, Blogger Karen B. said...

Good question, C.J. What constitutes a good editor? Someone who can capture the vision an author has for his/her writing; someone who KNOWS writing, but realizes she doesn't have to prove it; someone who is there to SERVE, not fix, the author; someone who, as you said, can take on the author's voice (can you say chameleon?), and lose his own voice during the editing process; someone who not only loves writing, but loves and respects writers. Because they're doing what so many want to do, but so few are willing to go through the work and pain to do. WRITING! And a good editor is someone with passion: passion for story and truth and the wonder of words. And someone who realizes it's not about him or her, but about the author and his/her story, and about the readers. Good editors respect the readers as well as the authors.

That's at least some of what makes a good editor. grin

 

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