She was a good editor. She delved so deeply into manuscripts that she could write revisions seamlessly: linguistically, no-one would be able to tell the author's original words and her extra phrase, or sometimes whole sentences or paragraphs. It was a talent for mimicry perhaps. When she was finished editing a book, it was an indissoluble whole, with her words etched in like tape, like patches, like embroidery over the holes in the arguments, the lack of logical connectives sewn over, conclusions woven clearly from the evidence of the material, the indisputable truth of the argument, she sewed and sewed, using invisible thread, using thread that exactly matched the original, so that nothing appeared amiss, it didn't sound like two voices had written the book, the author and the editor, but only one, improved on, and the other, hidden, and whose invisible mending is ultimately forgotten.
Writing in someone else's voice depleted her. She worked on non fiction books, and many of them were tedious and dull. It was up to her to spruce them up. To make the language shine in its simplicity without letting her movement through the text become visible. And working on other people's writing blocked her own. She couldn't leave "so and so's" style in his or her manuscript when she closed it for the night and turn to her own writing. It was as if her entire vocabulary was being used in the service of someone else's writing, being used to make someone else's writing better than it really was, and there was nothing left over for her. They wrung every ounce out of her, those manuscripts, those managing editors demanding a good job be done with what was often a mess. You'd be surprised at how many educated people can't write. She was one of those editors, among millions of helpers, who come, and comb through your book, rewriting it, so that it becomes the gleaming tome you are proud of, but who are forgotten, while perhaps mentioned on the copyright page, remain largely unacknowledged.
©Brenda Clews 2006
This is from my first NaNoWriMo novel, and it's directly from my own experiences as an editor for the decade that I did it in College and University texts for large publishers (though I have done private editing assignments nearly every year since). 'Minor classics,' that's what I aimed for. If a book remained on reading lists, considered the best in its field 'still,' then I thought my editing successful. Became burnt out, though...
technorati tags: editors, editing books, publishers, burn out.