Sunday, October 24, 2010

Jane Austen and the editor

I discovered Jane Austen at a ridiculously late age which is a shame, because if I'd been introduced to her work by the age of 16 I think I might have continued with English up to A level. But I digress.

The latest literacy buzz is that it appears that Jane Austen had an editor. Shock, horror. And that follows on from a revelation that the style of Raymond Carver's model short stories was highly influenced by his editor.

But why should we be surprised? Surely all writers need an editor, an outside eye to pick up what works stylistically and what doesn't, to spot errant typos and clumsy prose?

I'm possibly a little unusual in that I really like editing. I love the self-editing stage of writing, the honing of a rough first draft into more flowing prose. I don't mind my work being externally edited, because I can usually see that the suggestions will improve it. And frustrating as it is, I even masochistically enjoy the inevitable picking apart of the work to amend the foreshadowing of edited scenes where necessary.

One of the things that is drummed into students on the Open University creative writing courses is the importance of revision and editing and I have to say my own writing improved immensely when I started taking all that on board. I realised that prior to that my 'editing' consisted of little more than spellchecking. Now I pick my prose apart with a much closer eye.

But the downside is that I also pick apart the work of others and as I am reading I sometimes become distracted by something as simple as an errant comma. I guess that's what they call reading like a writer.

6 comments:

Paul said...

It's only an "errant comma" in the rule books. In creative writing, anything goes.

D.J Kirkby said...

I like editing too though I do have an editor that points me in the right direction.

Cathy said...

Paul, that's so true. But I still hold that you have to understand rules before you consciously break them.

DJ, I think we share an external editor. But I loved the month I spent editing my novel alone before it was sent off. It was a very different piece of prose when I finally pressed send.

Jenny Beattie said...

I've been told my use of commas is 'old fashioned.' I'm not sure how to change that... I use what I was taught at school and it was quite some years ago!

Maybe I need a Cathy?

Cathy said...

Hmm, not sure I can help there because I suspect I am old-fashioned too, Jenny! Is this something to do with not using commas in lists? I seem to remember reading something somewhere...

KatW said...

I think your strength in editing is and will be to your great advantage.

But now,Of course I'm; paranoid about how, I punctuate: do you know what I mean! LOL.

I've got better at editing but my problem now is knowing when to stop editing.

I've just enjoyed catching up on your last few posts. Good to catch up with your blog.

Kat X