Monday, July 24, 2006


Lee Lowe posed this query in a comment: "And you know, everyone always assumes that the edited and published version of a book is better. What if they're wrong?" Usually I think it is. But I'd be curious to hear from anyone on the topic.


Carole said...

There's no doubt in my mind that the edited book is better. Certainly in my own experience as a writer. It's the team effort that makes the book good. That fresh pair of eyes is absolutely invaluable.
Of course it has to be a good editor, one who isn't trying to write the book as they would have written it.
As a reader, my feeling is that editors have stepped back a pace or three over the past few years. In my bookclub, there are so many books that we read where the concensus is that it is a great story that needed a good edit.
I don't know whether it's a reluctance to tamper with the writer's words or if it's a cost saving thing.

Mack said...

I'd love to say otherwise but, in my experience, the final product tends to shine just a little bit more than the final draft I've submitted.

Mind you, I won't submit to wholesale changes if I believe an editor is clearly in the wrong. The relationship is all about compromise. So far I've been lucky.

By the way, great blog. You have an enthusiastic reader!

Lee said...

There are so many questions to ask. Fiction/nonfiction? Certain kinds of books? What about literary authors? Poets? It's always interesting to hear personal responses, but how much do these really tell us in general?

What are we editing towards? An ideal reader? A saleable commodity? Literary quality? A set of more-or-less commonly accepted rules which may or may not need rethinking, particularly in terms of cultural change? These are the kinds of questions I like to ask before even attempting an answer.

It would also be interesting to look at the historical development of editorship, in order to understand under what circumstances - to answer which needs - it arose.

Will the internet and epublishing change this?

And I always find it interesting how much diversity of critical opinion there is, say, about a novel like Mitchell's BLACK SWAN GREEN. If experienced literary critics and reviewers can't agree, what about editors?

And Mick, I'm afraid that the use of the word 'product' to refer to a book - or at least its contents - makes my hair stand on end.

Mack said...

*And Mick, I'm afraid that the use of the word 'product' to refer to a book - or at least its contents - makes my hair stand on end.*

I apologise for playing havoc with your hairy bits, but that's exactly what a book is. And I'm always looking for new ways to shift units. That last sentence was sarcasm, by the way. My Spidey senses tell me that you might have troubles detecting it. Cheers. Snarky Mick.

Andrew's black dog blog said...

Thanks, Mick, for your kind comment. Please keep reading.

Lee, Too many questions I think. We'd never get a book out the door if we answered them. With my editiing I am searching for the maximum number of authentic readers for the book.

Mack said...

Shall keep reading Andrew. One of those mornings yesterday. Today's looking brighter...

Lee said...


Yeah, I suppose I'm not good very good at detecting sarcasm. Thank you for warning me.

Carole said...

There is sometimes an assumption that the process of being edited is a painful thing. That the editor's goal is not the same as the writer's, that there is some sort of conflict.
That's not my experience. The book isn't taken from the writer's hands and changed without consultation. It's a collaborative process, with the mutual goal of making a better book. Changes are suggested, not demanded.
I think it is all about a search for clarity and meaning.