“The book didn’t sell and yes, I was mean-spirited enough to rejoice”: An essay on the dark arts of book editing by Stephen Stratford | 14th April, 2016 | The Spinoff.
“One of New Zealand’s best and most illustrious book editors, Stephen Stratford (“I am a polite person, mostly”), vents about having to deal with writers and publishers.
What I dread #1
When meeting someone new, the question I most dread is, “What do you do?” It is really hard to answer. As a freelancer, I do lots of different stuff – writing manuscripts, assessing manuscripts, editing manuscripts. I never call myself a writer – at best I am an author; it is too tedious to explain what assessing manuscripts means. I can’t talk about the Secret Television Business or what I do for Creative New Zealand. So I say, “I am a book editor.”
And then the someone new launches into a monologue on their pet hates about punctuation and grammar and what gets published in newspapers and magazines and how it’s all wrong because it’s not what they learned in school.
They are always – always – wrong.
They think that the rules they learned in school are the right rules for every occasion. I am a polite person, mostly, so I never ask them what year their teacher taught them this, and what year their teacher might have been taught this by their teacher, and what year that teacher’s teacher’s teacher might have been taught this. We are back in the 19th century by now. They think that fiction should follow the same rules as non-fiction. They have no idea about register, voice, tone, about how fiction works.
This is also true of some editors.”
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