Editing Tips from Douglas Gibson (#19)

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 guidelines form an engaging guide for sharp-eyed wordsmiths.

Tip #19
Care should be taken with adverbs, and editors should hunt down and kill surplus adverbs, taking an especially hard look at those that tell us how a line of speech is delivered. In my book I take a chance and offend against this rule. See if you think that I was right.
In the chapter on Val Ross (page 342) she is dying, and we both know that she will not live to see her book come out. “Val remarked on how many Robertson Davies books had come out since his death. “Yes,” I said, carefully, “and books do live on.”
I suspect that “carefully” has never been used more carefully.

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Editing Tips from Douglas Gibson (#18)

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 guidelines form an engaging guide for sharp-eyed wordsmiths.

Tip #18
Everyone knows that exclamation marks should be used only rarely. With overuse they lose their effect! Really soon!

Editing Tips from Douglas Gibson (#17)

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.

Tip #17
In her 2012 book The Literary Legacy of the Macmillan Company of Canada: Making Books and Mapping Culture, Ruth Panofsky quotes the editorial policy of the legendary publisher John Morgan Gray: “Gray’s ‘first job’ was to help authors realize their ‘full potential’ and he consistently followed his own ‘golden rule’ for editors: ‘[When] dealing with writers who know what they are doing don’t edit any more than requested to do; stand by to help if called on. Occasionally even the most assured writer will get too close to his work and may then welcome a hint of how it appears to someone else . . . The ideal role for the editor calls for sympathetic understanding, some talent for listening, judgment and good sense.’”

 

Editing Tips from Douglas Gibson (#16)

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.

Tip #16
Sometimes there is a clash between the wide-ranging expectations of a publisher and the difficult detailed work that the luckless editor has to do on the manuscript. This (except in the case of schizophrenics who are both publishers and editors, cough, cough) reflects a basic difference in character. As the wise John Le Carré has one of his cynical characters remark in The Russia House, “Publishers can get their minds halfway round anything.” Editors, by contrast, can’t just be halfway professionals.


Editing Tips from Douglas Gibson (#15)

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.

Tip #15
Every so often the book world erupts in furious argument about whether a new title should be classed as “fiction” or “non-fiction.” My advice here is to follow The Bartender’s Rule: If a drink has any alcohol in it, it’s an alcoholic drink.
So it is with fiction. Even if a book is 99% true, the 1% that is invented makes the book fiction. Consider the horror of congratulating a non-fiction author on a particularly striking fact, or true-life scene, and being told “Oh, that scene? I made it up!” Follow The Bartender’s Rule.

Missed the previous tips? Check out Tip #1, Tip #2, Tip #3Tip #4, Tip #5, Tip #6, Tip #7, Tip #8Tip #9Tip #10, Tip #11, Tip #12, Tip #13, and Tip #14.

Editing Tips from Douglas Gibson (#14)

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.

Tip #14
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 #3Tip #4, Tip #5, Tip #6, Tip #7, Tip #8Tip #9Tip #10, Tip #11, Tip #12, and Tip #13.

Editing Tips from Douglas Gibson (#13)

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.

Tip #13
Recent experience with Alice Munro’s new collection, Dear Life, reminds me that the editor of a short story collection has the advantage of seeing a collection of stories in “real time,” the present, while they may have been created years apart. Links and contrasts between stories may leap out to the reader/editor, while they come from different years, perhaps even different eras, in the writer’s life.

Missed the previous tips? Check out Tip #1, Tip #2, Tip #3Tip #4, Tip #5, Tip #6, Tip #7, Tip #8Tip #9Tip #10, Tip #11, and Tip #12.