On Editing

Good writers edit,  but great writers need excellent editors. The hardest part of writing is the revision process.

All of the great writers had great editors, but, today, with new publishing paradigms and the meat grinder of journals and academia, no longer do publishing houses, journals, or online publications provide skilled editors, or even bad ones. Gone are the days of the 19th century when highly educated, but unemployable, middle-class women donated their time to edit their spouses’ work.

Call it what you will, Writing 2.0, Social Writing, or Peer Editing, what we need is a place that brings together great writers who are also excellent editors. It’s not the academic peer review process, which focuses on theoretical, methodological, or disciplinary concerns, but peer editing, which focuses more informally on the more mundane, but almost as important, tasks of writing a clean draft, with literary flair, sound structure, and technical perfection. 

Have you ever wanted to ask, “Is this any good?” or “Does this sentence make sense?” or “How can I say this better?” or “What point do you derive from this paragraph?” If so, then you know what I am talking about. We need a place that brings together people who write for a living or as a passion—and can edit. A space for sharing unfinished articles, preliminary drafts, and other sorts of writing to be edited by peers—graduate students, freelance journalists, novelists, bloggers, and other wordsmiths—who also want access to a space for collaborative editing in order to do what we all find hardest to do: craft a literary construction. 

Have you ever needed someone with outstanding literary judgment to review your work? Rather than waiting for your supervisor, editor, or employer, who might never get back to you with substantive, constructive edits anyway, we need a place to edit.

I envision a shared writing space, a Write Club if you will, where you can post your drafts, works in progress, blog posts, dissertation chapters, and draft articles. Excellent writers, who also happen to be excellent editors, could then enthusiastically mark up your copy, with honesty and acuity.

The five rules of Write Club

  1. You do not talk about Write Club. No, seriously, writing is hard, and getting feedback is nerve wracking; hence, don't talk about other people's drafts.
  2. See above. Do not talk about Write Club. Shut up.
  3. Write and edit. If you post something to be edited, then edit something else. Or better yet, edit something first, then post something later. 
  4. Be critical, be constructive, and most of all be honest. Saying "it's good" and nothing else is not critical or constructive, and probably not true. At least not at this stage. But do give props where props are due.
  5. E-mail the author when you are done, otherwise they may not notice.

Write Club was an idea for a shared Google Docs folder for collaborative editing. It never quite went anywhere, but I think the idea is still worth considering.