How Editing Develops Your Writing

When most people think of editing, they think of corrections to spelling and grammar (proofreading) or fussing over whether the Democratic Presidential nominee is Hilary or Hillary Clinton (copy editing). But editors don’t just “nit pick” over small errors. They look at the bigger picture, how the story works as a whole. Combining objectivity with a passion for story, they can advise authors on how to make their stories better. This type of editing is known as developmental editing.

While I do offer proofreading and copy editing, developmental editing projects really get my juices going. Developmental editing is the line where writing and editing meets. You need to know how stories to do it. I’m going to be doing a developmental edit on a book soon and here are three things I’ll be advising the author on.

How well the story works

When you’re writing, you can feel as if you’re trapped in a maze. You’re so lost in the story that you can’t find a way to the end. Developmental editors hold out the ball of wool that you can use to find your way out. They will tell you if your characters are convincing and if the world you have created for them is vivid enough. They will alert you if your point of view isn’t consistent, or if your dialogue sounds wooden. They’ll also give you a sense of which events are central to the story and which are not.

Maze
Developmental editors get writers out of the maze.

How to shorten and lengthen

Some writers feel as if they’re drowning under the weight of words. Others may feel they are scrabbling for them. Developmental editors are objective, so they can tell you which scenes to cut and how to tighten your sentences. If you only have a scrap of an idea and you want to make it into a novel, developmental editors can give you tips on how to expand: for example by weaving flashbacks to the past into a contemporary story.

Whether you’re mad or not

When authors come to developmental editors, they are either muddling through a first draft and want to reach the end, or at the point where they need to decide whether to publish or not. These are delicate stages in an author’s life, and it’s easy for them to doubt themselves and wonder if they’re nuts to want to continue. Developmental editors will help them make that decision. I will give a verdict on whether the story has merit or not, and what the author needs to do to bring the story to fruition. Whether they tell an author to go ahead and send in that submission or go back to the drawing board, it could be just what an author needs to hear.

Have you ever used the services of a developmental editor, or a critiquing service? How has it helped you advance your writing?

 

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Writing With the Visually Impaired

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I’m a writer and I’ve visually impaired. I’ve shamelessly milked my sight problem for my journalism and creative writing, and while I’m now moving on to other topics, I wanted to give other people the opportunity to experience the power that comes with telling your own story and turning what seems like a disadvantage into a source of inspiration.

Visually Impaired Writing
Photo credit: http://www.ncbi.ie

As a result, I’ve struck up a relationship with the National Council for the Blind, and I’ve now given three one-day workshops at its Training Centre, thanks to the generosity of its director, Stuart Lawler. The participation has been lively and fun and (no pun intended) a bit of an eye opener. I’m partially sighted and have been so my whole life, so it’s been interesting to learn about the challenges faced by totally blind people and by people who have lost their sight, either gradually or suddenly.

Visual impairment is always portrayed as a hindrance, but in the writing world, it can be a powerful creative force. There are three qualities I noticed in the budding writers I worked with at NCBI which I think will help them to be fine writers.

Attention 

Visually impaired people concentrate harder. They pay attention to what you tell them, because they don’t have the luxury of leafing through prepared handouts. They are more likely to retain the nuggets of information you pass on to them. Sight is such a powerful sense that it almost blocks the other senses out. When it goes, other senses come to the fore, and as a result, visually impaired people may notice things that other people miss. This trait is essential for a good writer.

Anger

This isn’t quite the negative trait it may seem, but visually impaired people can be cranky, frustrated by a world which is designed for people who can see, in mourning for their lost sight. Writing helps them to channel that anger and use it to create something new. Their anger can help them create writing that makes people sit up and take notice, and (pun intended) view the world in a different way.

Angle

In writing, it helps if you have a perspective that is different from everyone else’s, a different way of looking at the world. When you’re visually impaired, you already have that. Some visually impaired people may prefer not to be defined by their disability and to write about other topics that interest them. If they do choose to centre their writing on their visual impairment, they have a wealth of life experiences at their disposal to draw on, which will help them to create fresh, original writing.

Have you ever worked with writers who have disabilities? Are you a writer with a disability yourself? How do you think disability shapes writing?