Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Lost Art of Editing

I am a reader. I am always in the middle of some book. I'm partial to fiction, but lately have increased my non-fiction exposure so that I am learning things as well as being entertained. Well, I have noticed a startling trend with books, non-fiction and fiction alike.

Some of the books I have read are in serious need of an additional edit. I once had a wonderful AP English teacher in high school, Ms. Vote, who taught us the painstaking art of editing. Always choose conciseness. If the thought isn't going to be expressed well, then take it out.

The most annoying literary device is the parenthesis. Parenthesis are supposed to give brief and informative background so as to further the story. However, in one book I'm reading, Liberal Fascism, the author proceeds to put whole thoughts into parenthesis. It's like a book full of asides to the audience. I say either explore the thought entirely in a separate paragraph or edit it out. But it's not just this book. I recently read The Deerslayer by Cooper, and that book needed a serious editor. Deerslayer is the prequel to The Last of the Mohicans and the other Leather Stocking Tales. All this to say that these books are a fascinating look into early American History and period leading up the French-Indian War, and Deerslayer was written last. I am not sure if the other Cooper novels read like Deerslayer, but there were about 200 pages too many of description. (Although the description was interesting, couldn't it have been edited down?)

If I were editor to either of these books, I probably would have taken a heavy hand with the red pen, if you know what I mean.

Where have all the good editors gone?


April said...

I was the copy editor of my high school newspaper. I took my job very seriously. That paper was perfect before it went to the publisher. If I missed a mistake, I took it personally. It drives me crazy when I am reading a book and there are spelling errors or gramatical errors that someone missed. And I am just now getting used to the fact that more unconventional writing styles are being accepted. Like starting sentences with And. :)

Jessie said...

I agree with you, entirely! It's like the standard for publishing is so low, anyone can write a book. Considering what is coming out of public schools, I shouldn't be surprised at the mediocrity, but I am because the editors are the ones who are responsible for catching it.

How are these authors getting their writing bonuses? Man, I should write something...