What’s editing anyway? Part 1
If you want to explain a concept or a task you love to someone who has no idea, add the word anyway at the end. Notice how you will be able to share a lot and passionately so. For instance, if you love being a parent, before you answer, ask yourself, ‘What’s parenting anyway?’ On one hand, the harmless word can undermine something. On the other, if you look deeper, it prompts important questions helping you arrive at an answer you feel is authentic.
I asked myself the same when a few months ago, I got talking to a girl I had just met. After she told me she was in finance, she asked me what I do. We had both come back from work and neither seemed eager to start a conversation. Instead of sharing my typical answer, I just gave away the easiest answer.
‘I am an editor.’
‘Oh, you do content.’
I heaved not a sigh of relief but a breath that needed to be managed and eased.
‘No.’ I smiled. I told her that anyone who does content is unlikely to know how to shape an idea into a story. Anyone who does content writing or editing may or may not know line editing, structural editing, feature writing, story development. Someone who does all these or a combination, on the other hand, may or may not be interested in content related work, even if she can do it, I added.
‘Oh,’ she raised her eyebrow. I was glad to hear that ‘oh’ which conveyed she wasn’t interested. It was dinner time and I wasn’t disappointed.
Imagine you have a chronic stomach ache and after trying various home remedies, the pain is incessant. You have three options. You could visit a GP, a lab or a surgeon. It’s obvious you will consult a GP first and only if the GP tells you that you need an X-ray, you will visit a lab. You may never meet the pathologist but he will still do his job well. You will visit the surgeon only if the GP says she suspects you need a surgery or at least advice from one. However, if you were told by professionals that you need a surgery, and yet you choose to visit only the GP, I am sure you will agree that in time, your insides would scream, ‘Get me the surgeon!’
Like in medicine, creating a work of art necessitates following a process. Skip the due process and someone (reader or patient or client) is likely to feel oddness, or experience additional suffering when she could have been relieved from it and even benefited from the advice or service. The example from medicine is meant to emphasize the importance of a process to reach a satisfactory end goal. Instead, as an editor who helps authors develop their ideas into credible stories, I can choose as per the needs of the story and author, if I want to be the GP, surgeon or pathologist.
Can I be the GP?
When any author consults me, I do a basic examination, which includes reading author bio, synopsis and sample chapters (at least two). Further, to be sure what this author wants from getting published, what is it that he is really trying to say and/or struggling with, I ask them to fill a form that invites an honest assessment, not clinical answers. I read this like a hawk eyed anthropologist or investigative detective digging for clues. While sometimes authors are more than happy to hear praise about their story, forgetting they even had an ache. Many others choose to do the work needed with the guidance of a professional.
Can I be the pathologist?
Like a pathologist, I work behind the scenes to ensure the idea or message is communicated to the author’s best intention and with an impact that will resonate across the target readership. The report or assessment I write is clear, thorough and encouraging ensuring the author feels she can improve and enhance upon her writing.
Can I be the surgeon?
Yes, I can but the more important question is when can I be one?
- When it is necessary
- Whenever I want
I choose to be a surgeon when it is the need of the story because every story does not need a surgery, whether aesthetic or non-aesthetic, both of which are valuable.
Do I always want to the surgeon?
As an editor, I don’t wish to crave to surgically invade every idea, sentence or story an authors create. Instead, I choose to help authors develop their ideas into credible stories, at any stage. Hence, I choose to be a surgeon if I see the need for it, and also if the author consents to the same.
All of us have consumed stories that have been edited even if we don’t ever see the editing. The idea behind ‘What’s editing anyway?’ is to bring awareness about editing, editors and its various applications.