Editing an Anthology

At the moment, I have some precious items in my hands (or strictly speaking in my hard drive). Some of these items have been a long time in the making, and they have a value beyond words, so I must be sure to treat them with care. They’re tie writings of Tramore Writers’ Group in Co. Waterford, who are in the process of compiling an anthology.

Most of the group are veterans of anthologies. They’ve produced two already – Ferry Tales and Tramore Tales. But in a departure from their previous anthologies, this anthology will be a mixture of poetry and prose. I’m delighted that the group has asked me to edit the anthology.

When I met the group to outline my proofreading process, they were knee deep in words and slightly overwhelmed by the task at hand. Aiming to lift a little of the mist from their eyes, I told them that I would straighten out their spelling and grammar, using the dreaded Track Marks function, the electronic equivalent with the red pen. I would do two proofreads and help them decide on the order of the pieces.

1st. Proofread

I’ve just done the first proofread. In this proofread, I’m familiarising myself with the authors’ work, the quirks of their writing, their strengths and the errors they’re most prone to. Each author will get a track-marked version of their documents, with the corrections indicated so they can see where the corrections were made, and a clean document with the corrections incorporated.They can work off this to do a final edit of their work. With each submission, I’ll send some editorial suggestions, with advice about ways to strengthen the work before the final proofread.

2nd Proofread

At this stage, I’ll just clean up minor spelling and grammar errors. More crucially, I’ll decide what order the pieces will appear in. I can choose to order them by:

  • Theme – if some of the pieces have a common thread in terms of subject matter.
  • Mood – the atmosphere of the pieces. For example, I’ll follow reflective, moving pieces with more light-hearted ones.
  • Form – I’ll measure the ratio of stories to poems and ensure there’s a good balance, so readers don’t feel they’re wading throught he material.
  • Alphabetical Order – I’ll simply order them according to the author names.

In reality, I’ll probably opt for a mixture of order and form.

Why I’m Doing It

I’m hoping that my outside perspective will be useful, as the members are familiar with each other and their work and may not spot errors such as repetition, over description and misuse of punctuation. I’ve been a little rigorous with my editorial suggestions, because I want to make sure the pieces are in the best possible condition for publishing. Above all, I need to be clued into whether the author is making a grammatical error, or just has a quirky way of wording their sentences. I will make sure I wield a scalpel rather than a chainsaw.

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