Welcome to our editing session
This evening we welcomed our invited guest, Gale Winskill, who taught us lots about editing.
Editing is simple … isn’t it?
Gale Winskill is a professional editor, living in Fife, who came to give us an introduction to what an editor actually does. My line of work, as with so many others, suffers from a general lack of awareness of just how much is involved, behind the scenes. All the attention to detail that may not be immediately apparent but is needed to make the final product look smooth and seamless.
Everything has its front of house – the facade that is presented to the world – but ask a teacher, a doctor, a nurse, a builder, a chef, a shopkeeper and they will all tell you just how much training, skill and experience is involved in that final product. The same applies to editing.
Reasonably armed, or so I thought, I went along to the meeting. Whatever I thought, you can multiply that by about ten because there was so much to learn!
On her website, Gale freely admits that her unconventional and indirect path into her chosen career came from a lifelong love of reading and the fact that she will happily read anything.
She has travelled and worked abroad extensively, been an in-house and freelance editor. On top of that, she has a good working knowledge of several languages and is an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP).
What’s more, she is very personable, putting you at your ease: an important point in building a working relationship between author and editor. She is a highly skilled communicator, getting her points over objectively and succinctly. This is my take on Gale’s presentation – a daunting task considering Gale’s expertise. Fingers crossed and apologies in advance!
So what does an editor do?
Gale’s view is that a book needs to be the best it can be. A bad review is no joke and by that time, it is too late – the damage has been done. This is even more important in the age of social media, when reviews and opinions spread so quickly. However, the author is too close to their own work to turn out the final product.
That’s where an editor’s role really comes in. They need an objective eye and to be time efficient. It is helpful if they are positive, rather than negative but equally so, the author must be prepared to accept suggestions, not as critisism.
Gale believes that an editor is the ultimate reveiwer, asking the question, “Why?” It is their job to identify problems that any future reader may spot and bring them to the attention of the writer, so that they can address them, prior to going into print.
Proofreading versus Copy-editing
This was the title of a handout that Gale brought from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. It had the following, thought provoking, quote by Gerard M-F Hill, which clearly shows the complexity of the task at hand.
“Copy-editing and proofreading are both editing, which is wrestling with words; but proofreading is like wrestling in a broom cupboard.”
Then of course, you have…
Structural editing deals with the big picture, looking at content, organization and pacing. Gale gave us numerous examples of this: logic of the story topic, pace/flow, gaps or holes, characters, genre, style of language, suitability of content, age appropriateness, to name but a few. There are many more but watch this space for a future workshop!
This asks the question, ” Is the story sound?” “Does it make sense?”
It also includes many more issues such as punctuation, grammar, factual inaccuracy, consistency of house style, formatting and legal issues.
This is the final stage and includes layout, further checking for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, minor changes in sense, consistency, references and index formatting.
Well yes, absolutely enlightened and eager for more.
If like me, this has whetted your appetite, then go on to Gale’s website to find out more. Many questions from members came up throughout the evening and no doubt more will come up in the coming months.
I for one, look forward to catching up with Gale again at one of our future meetings. Thanks Gale!
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© Jenny Hoggan