Sunday, November 25, 2012

Year of the Edit

In 2013, I will be presenting the Queensland Writers Centre's Year of the Edit, a series of five intensive masterclasses that are based around students' completed drafts of long form work. Here's what I've posted about the course on the QWC website (here):

Why, then, would you take a course in editing rather than, say, give your work to a freelance editor to make final revisions on your behalf? The answer is that, no matter how good your editors are, all writers need to develop at least two ways of relating to their work.

The first can be categorised in the broadest sense as compositional. For many, and certainly for me, this simply means that we write because we have it in us to write. When we open the laptop or turn the page, we’re not about to make strategic decisions about markets, publishers, the appeal of the material we’re presenting, and perhaps not even about style and structure as ways of reaching readers.

Although we may not be pouring an unfiltered self onto the page, it’s nevertheless the case that initial composition is often more about the act or performance of expression than the awareness of how we communicate.

A second way of relating to your work involves just this task, that is, an analysis of how one’s writing might affect others. Developing this relationship with a work you’ve written means becoming one of its critical readers, and for a moment setting aside the knowledge that you wrote it.

That’s not easy. How do you convince yourself that any part of a manuscript should go if it makes the final product better? How do you persuade yourself to put in another two months of structural editing so that the reader is carried forward not only by the content but also by the form? How do you force yourself to push the delete button on a much-cherished, if rather archaic, wordy, and perhaps beautiful turn of phrase?

The answer, of course, is that you don't. Or, rather, that you won’t do it yourself. And that’s why you do it with others.

Aside from joint authorship, editing is the most collaborative aspect of creative writing. In fact, in some cases editing is so central that it amounts almost to joint authorship. As a creative process, editing asks you to trust someone else to have a participatory role in your writing, not always with the result that a section will be changed, but certainly always with the result that you’ll have a better awareness of why that section was there in the first place.

One of my best teachers once told me that a lot of writers have their editor in mind when they write. That is, their editor stands in for a perfect kind of reader, one who is both sympathetic and critical. What I hope participants will gain from Year of the Edit is a better sense of themselves as one of the editors for whom they write.


Registration details available here.

(Pic source: QWC)