By Tee Tyson
In the second in our series of birthday navel-gazing, the very lovely Ms Tee Tyson talks about the pleasures and perils of collaborative editing.
They say two sets are better than one. Who are they? And were they talking about breasts? While I’d love to ruminate over that for awhile, I actually am pretty certain they were talking about eyes. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Meaning, someone might see what you miss.
Sure, they might have been talking about eye-spy, but I’m applying this to editing. Putting it simply, I’m a terrible editor when it comes to my own work. It’s because I know what it is supposed to say and I know what I want it to say, therefore, what it actually says sometimes doesn’t make it past my eyes and into my head. I can read a sentence seven times and not see the missing word. For serious. I’m not even being hyperbolic.
So, if two sets is better than one, then are four sets of eyes better than two?
Maybe, then again, maybe not.
Hold on, before you pull out the claws and start hissing at me, let me explain.
I entirely agree you should get people to look over your work, either friends and family you have bribed or blackmailed, or paying self-accredited individuals you find through a Google search. That said, I don’t necessarily think everyone and their aunt should go through with a red pen and turn it into a bloody battlefield.
Here’s the thing, not everyone knows what they are talking about. Just because Harry and Dick think a sentence or seven should be axed from the final product doesn’t mean it isn’t actually integral to the plot. Okay, fine, maybe you were hanging out on a writers forum and you found a person who is making mad money because they self-published their book and they only charged you a couple hundred bucks to edit your manuscript, and they think first person present tense doesn’t work and you’re taking their advice and rewriting your entire manuscript in third person past tense because they know best.
Well, sorry to break it to you, but … they might be wrong.
I guess it all comes down to the age-old saying, “Different strokes.”
Broken down into laymen’s terms, what appeals to one person might not appeal to another. This is completely applicable when it comes to editing, especially when talking commas because apparently they are subjective, most notably the Oxford comma and whether it’s a yay or nay piece of punctuation. Not to mention whether or not sentences can start with ‘and’. And adjectives, which are a no-no, and alliteration.
By the way, I love alliteration.
You see, some people are sticklers for rules and others love seeing them broken. There are things we like and things we don’t like. But just because I don’t LIKE something, doesn’t mean it won’t work for the story.
This is where the adage ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ comes into play.
Or, more accurately, too many editors touching the manuscript.
Here at Pankhearst, the editing process for Cars & Girls was a learning curve with a huge arc. Actually, the whole shebang was a learning curve. Working in a group isn’t exactly the most easy thing in the world. After a couple player changes due to unreliability and a couple weeks of complete lack of communication, we settled into a groove with four writers. And when it came to editing, everyone got a say … at first.
After the first round of edits, we realized it was a bit difficult to have four people edit one story. Not only because it is a bit daunting to get four sets of edits on one story and it’s a lot of swapping, reswapping and questioning whether you swapped or reswapped, but because it is next to impossible to write a story that all four people will be a hundred percent happy with.
Because Miss Jennings is a genius, she came up with near perfect idea of breaking the edits into categories. While we all were responsible for being word nerds and catching spelling and grammar issues, the stories were then broken down into other areas and assigned to a person to fine-tooth comb. One looked for plot inconsistencies while the other worked on fluidity and pacing. In the end, our once haphazard, slapped together Radioshack special science project turned into a fine oiled piece of machinery.
And the best part? In the end, the final word went to two people, the author of the story and the mastermind behind this whole boxcar beauty, Evangeline.
Writing stories for a group is hard work. You need people you can trust and rely on, ones who communicate and can hit deadlines, but most importantly, people who can take direction and follow orders. Editing in a group is harder work. You need to understand that you are not responsible for rewriting someone else’s story. Just because their turns of phrases and sentence structure isn’t how you’d write it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.
I learned, you have to remove your writer’s cap and replace it with the editor’s fedora in order to do the work justice. And I have a feeling Evangeline learned to keep me out of the kitchen.
That’s okay. I do my best work in the bedroom anyhow.
In the end, get people to look over your work, but ensure they read your genre, understand the story, and are people you trust to give honest feedback. Don’t put stock in every single edit, because you can disagree and actually keep your Oxford commas. And always, always, remember the final decision is yours, and Miss Evie’s.