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.