On Editing

A few months back I asked Lee, author of Mortal Ghost, about her stance on breaking free from editorial constraints, and turning to blooking for that freedom. Her opinion interested me and I wanted to see what comments her stance would gather. Over to Lee:

The usual rationale for professional editing is to make your work into ‘the best book possible’. This reminds me of taste tests to find the best chocolate ice cream: some like it sweet, some creamy, some filled with rough chunks of chocolate, some with a hint of bitter mocha. And what about the chef who decides to add a dash of hot pepper? Every editor will find something to ‘fix’ in your work, but I prefer to do the fixing myself. And no work is ever finished, just set aside. If I weren’t involved in a new novel, I’d be very tempted to tear Mortal Ghost apart and rewrite it from the foundations up.

I suppose you could say I’m not interested in producing a book, but in writing one: learning all that I can learn of technique – how the very best writers use the fundamentals – in order simultaneously to exploit and break free of their mastery. The questions which interest me are all about exploration. In effect, the only authentic editing is self-editing. I don’t care to be bound by the expectations of the marketplace, nor the conventions of a particular readership. How can I doubt that my work is flawed? It will always be flawed, for the job of the artist is to set themself ever newer, harder, more complex challenges.

Does this mean that I pay no attention to criticism? Not at all. I listen very carefully, even obsess about suggestions, and welcome incisive analysis. In the end, though, there is only learning by doing: in fact, learning by failing. And publishing online affords me that wonderful and absolutely essential freedom to fail.

L. Lee Lowe’s YA Fantasy Novel Mortal Ghost can be found here. She also blogs about writing at lowebrow.

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Category: Guest Bloggers
  • http://elohigadugi.org Duane Poncy

    I agree with Lee, completely. Well said. While I am not adverse to getting published in the traditional manner, I also write for the reasons she gave, and online publishing is quite rewarding in that sense.

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    I don’t write online to escape editorial constraints, probably because I actively search for editors and see what they have to say about my writing. Most of them don’t give constructive criticism … just outright rejection. But when it does I find myself growing. I am grateful to these editors – they take the time, and as a result of their efforts, my writing improves.

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  • Blair Suarez

    Whilst self editing is one of the most important skills an author can learn, I think that having an outside source of editing is also important. How often can a writer get so caught up within a story that they begin to illustrate a story that shades itself in nothing but black and white to the reader whilst seeming to be of a techno-colour spectrum within the writers eyes. Having someone work with you from start to finish is something that I find amazingly helpful. Others may read and give suggestions but I think just as you need to have that constant flow of story line and character, wavering slightly but of course always keeping to something of a general plot, your editing needs to be much of the same as well. If this doesn’t happen then you’re likely to have a story that whilst good will be irregular with it’s story telling and will not turn out to be as true to itself and it’s characters as it could be.

    So yes, I beleive that the middle man needs to have less of a hand in what is said, but alas that man (or woman) should still stay, to give at least a little guidance here.

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