What Issues Editors Address: Part 2: The Forests
What kinds of issues do editors address? I liken editing and writing to looking at the forest, trees, and leaves; there are different levels of considerations. See this blog about the trees and leaves. As well, there’s an additional layer—what I call the landscape—which I’ll address in another blog.
Here are some issues in the forest category (issues of structure and content) and some example questions:
- goal—What goal is the publication designed to meet? Whatever the goal is—for example, to tell the best Alberta werewolf/paranormal story published this year, recount the history of the cancan in words and pictures, meet the Ontario high school course International Business Fundamentals (BBB4M) curriculum, sell health insurance plans for cross-border travel, or document the specifications and applications for type 0.173 wingnuts—the publication needs to have the content and structure to meet that specific goal.
- content—Does it have what the writer promised—implicitly or explicitly? Does it include all the elements that the author was contracted to write? If the author is self-publishing, what are his or her goals and does the content live up to them?
- scope—Does the manuscript deliver on the promise of the stated subject. For example, does a manuscript said to describe the flora and fauna of Indonesia actually focus almost exclusively on the plants of Bali? From concept to realization, did the manuscript expand, narrow, or shift in focus? And is that change OK for the reader and publisher, or does it need to be fixed? Is there excess material to cut as extraneous or more to be researched and written? Or is the changed focus fine if the focus is introduced, a new title or subtitle found, etc.?
- depth—Was the manuscript to be written for the layperson but reads like a grad school textbook? Or did the manuscript promised for the general reader who is well-read in international politics come in with a surface treatment and grade 5 reading level? Or is the content explored in a depth that seems exactly right for the intended reader?
- structure—Does the structure serve the content and the author’s goals? Does the structure serve the reader’s goals? What typical structures might work for the content and goals—and which might not? For example, an opening flashback and slow reveal of details might work in a novel to capture the readers’ interest, but those structural devices won’t serve someone reading a tech support document for a computer program. Should the writer summarize, for example, the principles of democracy before examining emerging democracies and the challenges they face? Are critical concepts and key terms explored in a sequence that seems logical? Are characters developed sufficiently before the crisis so that the crisis makes sense?
For more about editing and types of editing, see other blogs in this series or contact me.