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The arranged marriage

May 11, 2015

Good fiction editors love to read, care about how stories are told and have the chutzpah to tell authors how they might make their stories better. At a one-day workshop sponsored by the Editors’ Association of Canadamarriage, Editor Barbara Berson described the author-editor relationship in detail. says that editing non-fiction is more straightforward. With an exposé or travel piece, the “truth” is a known quantity, so the editor’s main task is to help to organize the story effectively. But with fiction, the overall task is more elusive.
Barbara argues that the bedrock of fiction editing is to figure out the truth of a work. “It’s very important to come to an agreement with the author about what truth he or she is trying tell.” Once the premise is established, the editor’s work is to identify what needs to be done to help the author make this truth more apparent. “You need instinct and the courage to think about what might make it better and be able to express that clearly to the author.” She feels it is very important to listen to the author, to have the courage to ask “dumb” questions, and to be curious about the work. Above all, it’s important to be generous and kind.
“The author has worked hard. It’s very important to be able to listen and really understand what the author has written.” Author Maureen Jennings described the relationship with her editor as an arranged marriage!


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