Are you someone who tells it straight as you see it? When asked your thoughts about an idea, would you use up all of your feedback time to explain what doesn’t work about it? If yes, know that there are choice words others may be using to describe you—best shared when you’re out of earshot. A tamer one is editor.
Consider what we expect an editor to do with our copy. In simple terms, an editor alerts writers on what’s wrong with their words, their construction of sentences and ultimately their ideas. Realistically though, the editor-writer partnership is complex. It’s no surprise then when the relationship turns contentious. Think Thomas Wolfe and Maxwell Perkins or Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Apparently, a passionate contention can still result in writing that’s well received.
But try looking at it this way
An editor doesn’t have to be the writer’s nemesis. The job is such that it requires a tactful flag on what won’t work for your audience. For example, depending on the type of writing and its intended audience, the following can happen.
Burying your key message in the last paragraph? That’ll get flagged.
Introducing what studies are saying without sourcing? Expect a flag.
Referring to people of colour as “coloured people”? It’ll probably be flagged
Spelling a name differently throughout the copy? Definite flag.
Like everything in life, we need balance
Balance is the reason why editors worth their salt will review copy and also tell writers what works. Of course, it’s not their sole focus, but occasional comments confirming what’s effective can help move writing forward.
And honestly, editing copy is not a job of flagging as much as it is a job of supporting. As writer, once you’ve communicated your goals, expect your editor to suggest how to improve your writing. As well, feel no way to ask for feedback on the things you’re doing right.
When you think of good editors—meaning solid in every capacity—think of Toni Morrison. Consider her nineteen years of experience at Random House. She was editing textbooks in the late ’60s before joining the big publisher. She became its senior editor and worked on the writings of Toni Cade Bambara, Gayle Jones, Angela Davis, Boris Bittker, Henry Dumas, Ivan Van Sertima, and so many other voices throughout the ’70s. In a burgeoning era, these were writers of movements. Their words would make African-American lives relevant in a world that was closed off to the very idea—Morrison included; for it was also a time when she launched her own literary career. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. She would continue to write and publish while still editing illuminating works for RH.
And of course there are other ways to break through. Muriel Spark endorsed investing in a cat. According to the novelist, its intrusive, unabashed stretch across our writing board can induce a serene state. Serenity attracts clarity. And clarity holds readers’ attention, no matter the form of writing.
What also pushes us through our writing is working with a good editor; someone who guides as we turn over ideas and position words; someone in sync with the writing goals and readers’ expectations.
If the intended message falls short, that editor brings us back to the idea, inquiring and suggesting seemingly weird, sometimes annoying, but mostly helpful things like: “Read that aloud. Do you hear that? Now let’s try turning your idea inside out. What do you mean to say here? Re-position your words. Consider trimming your paragraphs. Maybe try better words.” Ah.
… there are different kinds of editors just as there are different forms of editing. Know what you want done to your copy.
Here’s the thing about editing. Anyone who writes text and sends it out into the world needs it reviewed. That makes how many of us in a day? Seriously, I can’t count that high.
For all of your projects that carry text, consider allocating resources toward revisions. This includes investing the dollars as well as spending time to work with an editor to get the copy’s readability where you need it to be. Reason being: think how disorganized writing or one-too-many misspelled words can turn people off. You lose them quickly. The next time you build your project budget, include editing. It’s an investment with returns.
Here’s something to know when seeking an editor: there are different kinds of editors just as there are different forms of editing. Know what you want done to your copy. There’s developmental editing, structural editing, stylistic editing, copy editing, proofreading and more. Finally, it’s definitely worth knowing that many skilled editors follow standards. Check out the Professional Editorial Standards 2016 for a good idea of what clients can expect and what editors should be doing.
Fresh Milk Barbados helped get me back to the writing board after a two-year drought. These weekly blog assignments have me turning over my experiences and contemplating their different angles and textures. Sharing our patterns with other writers becomes necessary. Not by accident but by design.
Fresh Milk resident artists, writer Saada Branker and filmmaker Powys Dewhurst, share more about their time spent in Barbados. For their third blog post, Saada writes a three-part reflection on artistry and education in the island, outlining the creativity, diversity and tenacity she and Powys have seen and engaged with while working on their documentary memory project commemorating the 60th anniversary of Hurricane Janet. Read more below:
Education for the finest at UWI. Roaming chickens remain camera shy.
Where Education Can Take You in Barbados
Before we dismiss art as a sidetrack, consider how creative classes have always grown their ideas by finding methods to execute, launch and celebrate their overarching concepts. Today through layered highways of social media, an ever-expanding audience is poised to tune in to the language and persuasion of the artist. In this three-part blog, I celebrate artistry and arts education in Barbados. As I learned…
Fresh Milk‘s current residents, writer Saada Branker and filmmaker Powys Dewhurst, share their second blog post about their experiences in Barbados. Despite going all out this week to gather information and stories for their documentary memory project about the effects of Hurricane Janet on the island, Saada takes the time to consider not only the power of individual accounts, but the importance of a broader context and the longer term results of the storm. Read more below:
Saada Branker and Edwin and Angus of Top Car Rentals.
It seems like self-inflicted cruelty to be picking up our pace in a place like Barbados. What has become the status quo in tightly-wound Toronto is almost ludicrous in sedate Walkers Terrace, St. George. Funny: I remember a friend once agreeing that navigating in Canada’s largest metropolitan city feels like being in a rat race. “But we’re not rats,” she added. Indeed.
Barbados is beautiful by its people and by its landscape.
As the days progress and the frenzied pace decelerates, I truly feel this is my island in the sun. But here is the thing: I’m getting skinny. Stress can do that. Some people put on pounds; I lose them. In Toronto, planning for this work trip on Hurricane Janet had me skipping breakfast almost every morning.
That bad habit continues in Barbados, which now has me wondering why – when it comes to food – does maintaining our health and wellness feel like actual work?
When we’re skipping meals or reaching for sugary cereals and processed, fatty foods for our “most important meal of the day” (the debate continues over that point), our bodies suffer because of our food choices. We can count on that. There is no revelation or new news here. Most people, including myself, understand this correlation. Still, I think I’m slick. Just because I’m not falling over onto a hospital stretcher, I keep the bad habit alive. Is that Toronto-esque? Wait, don’t answer that. It’s just harebrained.
Clearly, my island in the sun is telling me about myself and the counterproductive lifestyle I’ve developed around daily meals. Let’s see what I can do to correct that.
Canada-based couple Saada Branker and Powys Dewhurst, a writer and filmmaker respectively, share their first blog post about their Fresh Milk residency. Both having strong ties to Barbados, Saada and Powys are in the island embarking on a project very close to their hearts and heritage: a documentary memory project commemorating the 60th anniversary of Hurricane Janet. Read more below about their first week of collecting data and interviews, and how physically being in the space has brought home the reality of Janet’s impact on the island and its people:
It was perhaps not by accident but by divine design that we arrived in Barbados on June 1st, the official start of the 2015 Hurricane season. Quite simply, Powys and I are hunting Hurricane Janet, although she is long gone. We resurrect her memory with each question posed to Bajans as they go about their daily business.
Fresh Milk is pleased to welcome our next artists-in-residence Saada Branker and Powys Dewhurst who will be joining us from June 1 to June 26. The two will spend their time collecting sights of the island and stories from locals about Hurricane Janet which hit Barbados on September 22, 1955. What they gather will be part of a multi-media project and short film presenting an exchange of Bajan and Bajan-Canadian memories about Janet and recovery.
About Saada Branker
Saada Branker is a writer and copy editor born in Montreal. There she grew up hearing stories from her Barbadian parents about their childhood years in St. George. Now living in Toronto, she has worked on various media projects. Saada is a Ryerson University journalism graduate with a BA in Political Science from Concordia University. Her passion for writing and journalism led to opportunities in broadcast news (CBC Newsworld), newsprint (Globe and…
“All I know about grammar is its infinite power. To shift the structure of a sentence alters the meaning of that sentence, as definitely an inflexibly as a position of a camera alters the meaning of the object photographed. Many people know about camera angles now, but not so many know about sentences. The arrangement of the words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your mind. The picture dictates the arrangement.”
-Joan Didion, “Why I Write,” New York Times, December 5th 1976
Joan Didion in 2005. Photo by Kathy Willens/Associated Press
Sometimes words fly from your fingers into the keyboard, the ink runs from your pen in a continuous flow, and your imagination fills the screen or page as if by magic. Sometimes when you sit down to write, inspiration is absent or obstinate, hiding and refusing to surface. American author Joan Didion refers to these times as “bankrupt mornings.” She counsels writers on keeping a notebook as a prophylactic against truant inspiration:
See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do, which is write — on that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest, paid passage back to the world…