Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reflections from a newbie editor

In all honesty, I can't remember why I decided to do this. I didn't really have anything ready to be published, and really, I have plenty to do already. Between the two and a half hour round trip commute for my day job, weekly soccer league, almost weekly writers' group meetings, the outdoor adventure club I lead, and training to run a race in every state, I really don't need another project.

But I wanted to. I don't know why. I think I wanted to tackle editing, like for real. We talk a lot in our Writers' Group about the difficulty of getting published. But I knew a little about CreateSpace,'s self-publishing imprint, and it seemed to me that it couldn't be that hard. Marie was right on board, so we put our heads together & figured out what kind of short story collection our writers would produce.

Ok that's not entirely accurate. We had no idea what we were going to get. The group runs the gamut from poets to romance writers to memoir writers to zombie memoir romance writers. We threw the cards in the air and waited for them to fall in the editor's version of "52 pickup."

As it turns out, we've gotten a really neat collection of stories that range from light and sweet to funny to dark & mysterious. Not unlike the ups & downs in human life. It has been interesting to see the different places that our group is coming from, and what kinds of stories they write. We TALK about writing a lot, but reading everyone's work has been a very different experience. I know many of our authors well, and have heard contributions and thoughts and discussions throughout the years we've been in the group. But as every writer knows, there are two sides to every personality.

It's also been a good exercise in developing my own writing skills. Marie and I both selected the pieces, but she is focusing on the marketing and promotion, and I'm doing the bulk of the line editing. I'm realizing there are probably as many ways to tell a story as there are stories themselves, and it's been fascinating to see how different people tell different types of stories. Learning how to explain what works and what doesn't. What storyline is clear, and what needs a little straightening out. And since these are short stories, we also have to determine what is essential to tell the story, and what is non-essential, or distracting.

I'm realizing that as an editor, there's a fine line you need to tiptoe on. You can make suggestions for a story that will make it something you (the editor) would like to read, and making happen what you (the editor) want to happen. But it's the author's story; the author needs to make the big decisions. At the same time, since I'm working with people I haven't worked with before, I'm not sure if they're going to have any idea what I'm talking about. Will they follow my train of thought to get from here to there? Or am I completely misinterpreting their original idea? Fortunately, nearly everyone so far has "gotten it," and the second versions we're receiving are spot-on.

And I'm taking it all with me. Every story I read, make suggestions on, and that comes back with a revision makes me want to get back to my own story lines! Funny how when we write we focus on writing MORE, but when it comes to editing, usually it means LESS words! But that's what editing is for. It doesn't HAVE to be perfect the first time. The writing process is for characters and ideas. Editing is for story & plot development. In a slightly depressing eureka moment, I discovered that I am much more inclined to the latter.

Here's to the works in progress!


  1. Amy, you couldn't have expressed this journey any better than you did with this post. I have learned so much from working with you and like a real road trip, sometimes we run into heavy traffic, detours and flat tires. But they don't call you the "Go To Girl" for nothing and you have taken that deck of cards and turned it into a Royal Flush. Love working with you. Super G:)

  2. Amy, I think you and Marie have done a phenomenal job. Persoanlly, I understand what you mean when you have to change hats between being the reader, the author and the editor. You have mastered it well, kudos. Thank you BOTH!


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