Editing Someone Else’s Words

My life is boring, I admit. I do pretty much the same things day after day. For me to blog “I wrote a chapter” and then, two days later, blog the same title again, would be very boring indeed.

But lately, I’ve set aside my writing to edit my writers’ group annual book. This year, instead of ‘The Best of’, we decided to write a cohesive novella. We’ve done this before, each of us taking a different character, or writing short connected stories about a main theme. But this one’s different; we decided to go Round Robin style. I started off, followed by someone else, and so on, until it was my turn to write again.

Makes for a rough story.

My job, as editor, is not only to do the usual corrections of spelling, punctuation, and grammar, but also to smooth the different chapters so they flow from one to the next without throwing the reader out of the boat.

The difficulty lies in preserving the original writer’s voice while making it work correctly.

So many people, when critiquing others’ work, try to rewrite the piece. That’s not the point. We need to preserve the writers’ style while showing him/her how to make it stronger.

Sometimes it means leaving little oopses, rather than change a whole section. Some writers use commas way too much, so I remove most that aren’t needed, but leave a few that aren’t wrong, yet aren’t entirely correct, either. I leave a few of the more harmless run-on sentences in a chapter written by a writer who’s known for them. After all, it’s not supposed to be just my writing. And if I over edit, that’s exactly what it will be, MY writing.

Our strength as a group, as a community, is having different voices, different ways of expressing ourselves. 

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