In this recurring feature, we’re sharing tips for editors from the desk of Douglas Gibson. Good for those starting out or old hands who need a reminder, these reminders form an engaging guide for sharp-eyed wordsmiths.
In her fine new book, The Literary Legacy of the Macmillan Company of Canada: Making Books and Mapping Culture, Ruth Panofsky quotes the “urbane, cosmopolitan and well travelled” editor Kildare Dobbs. He wrote that the fiction writer must have “intuition and moral taste,” avoid cliché, melodrama, and especially “the curliness of a Victorian bandstand.” A strong novel was carefully structured, appropriately paced, and “told with skill and perception” if not “flourish and wit.” When these qualities are lacking in fiction, Dobbs asserted he “would rather embalm a corpse” than undertake revision.
Missed the previous tips? Check out Tip #1, Tip #2, Tip #3, Tip #4, Tip #5, Tip #6, Tip #7, Tip #8, Tip #9, Tip #10, Tip #11, Tip #12, and Tip #13.
I have written a book about “My Three CF Warriors” and my editor wants me to get rid of the cliches. I feel that the true representation of my book requires the cliches. Our lives were full of cliches. Ironic! As I write this to you, I am already changing my mind. My children were anything but cliche. They repeatedly broke new ground for children with cystic fibrosis. We were one of only two families in the world who met the full criteria for the discovery of the CF Gene. The gene was actually discovered through our family and mentioned in the book “GENOME” by BISHOP AND WALDHOLZ. Thank you for getting me to think about those darn cliches! Once again, because of your remarks, I will defer to my editor. Thank you for helping to make me a better writer.
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