Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Earlier this month I worked with my editor to prepare “Perfect Red: The Life of Paraskeva Clark” for publication. Many people do not realize the importance of an editor in writing a book, but I worked as a book editor for many years and learned to appreciate the benefit of a good editor to a writer.

When you are immersed in researching and writing, especially in a project that stretches over a number of years as does writing a biography, you are so intertwined with what you are doing that most of the time it seems impossible to look at what you have written from any other perspective than your own. To have another person, an experienced editor, read your writing and comment on it is an extremely helpful process. An example of this is what happened to me on the last chapter of my book. I was discontent with the way I had written that chapter, but I was stuck and could not think of a different approach for the conclusion. (One thing I learned again is that the most difficult parts of a book are the beginning and the ending.) I asked my editor, Ruth Bradley-St.-Cyr, for some suggestions, and her questions and ideas helped me look at the chapter in a different way.

We did the editing for Perfect Red totally on line. Ruth would send me her work by email, and by using the tracking and comment features in Microsoft Word I could see exactly what she had changed or added, and then I could respond to that and send it back to her. This was my first experience with electronic editing, and to my surprise it worked really well (I’m a paper lover and my Joyce Wieland biography published in 2001 was paper all the way).

I enjoy the editing process because it is a creative, collaborative effort. The editor might suggest something, and simply this other point of view releases my thought process so that I can think about I wrote in a new way. What I then write is not necessarily what the editor suggested - it might follow on the editor’s idea, but it might be something totally different, but I could not have written something new without her input.

So today I honour all good editors who make good books better!