One part of my plan with In fabula-divinos is to provide writers with as close to a professional edit process as possible – to make them aware of the work and thought involved when a story is sold into a professional market (particularly at novel level).
So the first part of that is the editorial letter. This covers big picture stuff – is the plot hanging together, are the characters’ motivations authentic, is the worldbuilding tight. Every section of the story is analysed and the author directed to consider the question posed and decide for themselves whether it is a problem or not; whether it just needs a tweak or an entire section needs a re-write.
I tend to be the type of editor who points out weak spots but doesn’t make too many suggestions about fixing it. I don’t want to stamp on the author’s creativity. My own experience (both as an editor and being edited) has shown me that the best editors believe in the maxim that the story belongs to the author. The author has lived it, perhaps for months, worked with it, shaped it and they know it far better than the editor. I can start making suggestions, but I don’t know the background of this story, or the characters, and can totally go off on the wrong tangent.
What I can do – in fact, have to do – is point out those areas where the author’s vision isn’t coming through clearly. For example, show them where a character isn’t acting according to the way they’ve been portrayed so far, but not tell them how to fix it at that moment. After all, the problem may well be in the previous portrayal and this is the first time the character is acting the way the author intended. I don’t know that, but once it’s pointed out the author will and they’ll fix it in the way that best suits the story.
So Holly got her editorial letter on Tuesday. I tried to balance out the areas where the story is falling short with pointing out the things that are working well. She’s got a great sense of pace and action and I don’t want that lost in the revisions.
Holly’s got a week to think about and re-work the story and return it to me. Maybe there will be a dialogue that needs to be entered into, if there are still areas that are a bit flat. Maybe she’ll stun me with her solutions and we can pat each other on the back for the teamwork that made the story better.
Sometimes, all authors need is one run with revision, then you can move onto copyediting. Sometimes, one part of the story is playing silly buggers and it just won’t come together – I remember a very successful author and I bouncing her story back and forth half a dozen times before we finally got the ending to sing. Hopefully Holly and I won’t have to do that 🙂
But you do what you can – question, poke, consider, refine – until the story that the author wanted to tell shines.