When a novel is printed in multiple countries, it often has more than one editor. Slate interviews Emma Donoghue; her American editor, Judy Clain; and her Canadian editor, Iris Tupholme, about how they all edited Frog Music. They discuss everything from how to deal with editing disputes to the best way to get edits. “I much prefer to get everyone’s opinions separately, because if I got a single editorial letter, it would be like getting a note from God!” Donoghue says. For more on the editing process, read about our own Edan Lepucki’s relationships with her copy editor and editor.
When I edit, I try to look at the big picture first. What is this book trying to do? In some cases, it’s telling an exciting story, in others it’s exploring a fascinating set of characters, or in others teaching the reader something new. My job is to make suggestions on how the author can take what he or she is already doing and make it even better. Mostly, I try to think about how the reader will react to the text. Is there something a reader might not understand? If so, the author should probably clarify it. Is there something that will make this a more page-turning read? If so, let’s do it. And of course, along the way, you’ll catch smaller things — plot and character inconsistencies, grammar errors, etc. — but it all leads to the same goal of making it the best possible experience for the reader.
Allie Sommer in conversation with Edan Lepucki “Life is Too Short to Read a Bad Book: A Conversation with My Editor”
'See here, I want you to come to Random House and lose some money for us with literary books,' the press’s president and publisher, Harold Evans, told Daniel Menaker, then fiction editor of The New Yorker, in 1995. 'You have five years to fook oop.'
Matt Seidel, “’My First Buy’: Book Editors Discuss Their Earliest Acquisitions”
Because I read slowly, I also remember odd little details that provide a strong visual image, and so as I read along, if my visual image is jarred by a description, I’ll backtrack to figure out if there’s some inconsistency. I remember more details about characters in novels I’ve copyedited than I remember from my own life.
Edan Lepucki, “Style Sheet: A Conversation with My Copyeditor”
The founding editors are slowing down. We’re not mad at anyone anymore. We think everything is great. … But amazingly at n+1, we’ve had this younger generation of angry young women kind of rise up. Something has created space for young editors to come in and be really angry… But that’s holy, that’s the thing that makes great writing: being angry.
My stepmother used to give lots of speeches and he asked me to edit one of her speeches. I think the idea of giving a kid that kind of power over your parents’ work, even though she didn’t take any of my edits…[chuckles] There was a rush of perverse power.