A wonderful article in The Herald Scotland by Liz Thomson gives an insight into 83-year-old editor Gordon Lish. It offers great insight into Lish’s lifelong career as well as the way many great editors feel about the work they do.
“I have a gift. Or I have an opinion or I have a prejudice or a bias,” Lish explains. “Would that I were otherwise, but I’m not. I have a quick sense of the destiny of what’s before me.”
No matter how humble talented editors tend to be about their instinct for good writing and a writer’s ability to revise, the instinct is real.
“I’d get in at six in the morning. In those days I could look at a page of text and arrive at some kind of view of its qualities, its values. I can’t do that now because I’m quite impaired by macular degeneration so I can’t see enough, only a snippet.”
Although I’m a freelancer, I still get in to my home office by 6:00 a.m. It fills me with fear to think of a day when I can’t see text.
“I never felt competent to express what a book is about. It’s not about anything. Nothing but the writing.”
It’s important for writers to know how to discuss their book. I stress to my clients the need to express clearly and concisely what their book is about. Still, I feel protective of a client’s book when asked this question, wishing always that it would be sufficient to say, “Trust me. It’s good.”
“I’m comfortable with words,” Lish concludes. “I write them down psychotically. If I come upon a word I don’t know I write it down. Their effect on me is potent and delicious.”
This last quote was my favorite part of the article. To be comfortable with and psychotic about words. to find them potent and delicious, this is a good description of what it’s like being a logophile.
Read the entire article on HeraldScotland.com.
I wasn’t able to find a non-editor in my daily life who found this funny. Maybe it requires knowledge of the way GRRM has kept us waiting for his next installment. Maybe it requires knowledge of what copy editors do. Maybe it requires knowledge of the way all editors feel about editing (hint: passionate).
So, this humor post by Tyler Schmall is primarily for editors and copy editors. Read the entire article on Mashable.
“In all honesty the book has been done for like a year now, they’re just waiting for me to look it over and edit it. And honestly I wish I could. But I am just slammed at the moment. I’m like so behind on emails, and I got like three documentary series I still gotta watch. (Don’t you even think about spoiling The Keepers for me haha.) I barely have time for anything right now, and now you want me to copy edit this mammoth of a book just because YOU want to know what happens in the next installment of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy thriller saga A Song of Ice and Fire, a book series unlike anything in the cultural zeitgeist before?
That’s kind of selfish of you, don’t you think? I’m doing my best.”
Use those few minutes before a meeting starts, standing in line at the supermarket, and waiting in the doctor’s office. Instead of watching TV or checking social media, write. All those micro writing sessions add up to pages, which add up to chapters.
While editing involves performing the same types of tasks every day, the subject matter of projects vary.
My current editing projects include:
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There are many overused story openings that you should avoid at all costs. Several literary agents, acquisition editors, and publishers have written about this, but here is a short list of the most annoying and disliked ways to start a story.
Do not open your story with:
Get your characters out of bed already.
Chris Kyle gives a well-written, detailed account of US military life during the Iraq War. If you’re seeking to understand the mindset of Iraq War veterans, American Sniper might be a good place to start.
Using words in your historical fiction that weren’t used during the book’s time period detracts from the book. You might have a good plot and writing style, but your readers are expecting a well-researched narrative.
One of my favorite tasks when editing historical fiction is checking the etymology of words. Picking out the time traveling words takes instinct and curiosity. I once researched “cute” out of editorial instinct and learned that it is short for “acute” and was originally synonymous with intelligent rather than adorable. Considering the time period of the novel I was editing, “cute” didn’t make the cut.
My two favorite online resources for checking etymology are: http://www.etymonline.com/ and https://www.merriam-webster.com/. These links are good starting points, but many words and phrases require more research.
Today I’m celebrating the life and love of Dr. King.
I’m currently reading Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance. I’m terribly bored reading it, but I’m suffering through it because it was recommended by a friend.