Editing and swimsuits

In a few months I’ll be able to add “editor” to my credentials.

Well, I already can in my day job, but you know. Fiction editor.

I’m running the Library at the Origins Game Fair in 2013, and one of my responsibilities is assembling an anthology that includes all the Library’s participants. I’ve been writing professionally since 2006 and I’ve critiqued probably hundreds of stories for a variety of writers since then. But you know what? Turns out that editing is a different beast entirely than critiquing. When I agree to crit a story, it means a) the author knows me well enough to trust me with his work, b) I know the author well enough to be completely honest about said work, and c) there’s an unspoken agreement between us: I can suggest everything from tweaking a character’s motivation to massive, sweeping rewrites and he can ignore any or all of my suggestions. It’s sort of like swimsuit shopping with your friends; you trust them to not let you look like an idiot in public, and you promise you’ll do the same. They won’t let you walk out of the dressing room in a speedo and you won’t let them buy polka-dots.

Not so much with editing. By the time the story gets to me, it’s been through the wringer. It’s been written, rewritten, self-edited, and passed through a few crit partners. In an ideal world, by the time a story gets to me, it’s the best an author can do. My job’s not to change their story; my job as an editor is to strengthen the story while maintaining their vision. They’re wearing the cutest fucking swimsuit in the whole store, the one that flatters them the most, the one that makes them look spectacular. It’s not my job to tell them they should have stayed away from orange or that maybe, just maybe, a one-piece would be a better idea than a string bikini. My job is to take that swimsuit to the next level. Yeah, they look good. I try to make them look better … while staying out of the way. Suggest a new phrasing here. Change up the punctuation here. Point out a section or concept I want strengthened or tightened. I don’t tell them they can’t wear a bikini. I tell them the waistband on their bottoms needs to come up an inch and the straps should be tied like a halter.

It’s a fine line to walk. I’m looking forward to working on my balance in the coming years.

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