This month I’m celebrating a dozen years as an editor at Tyndale House. In honor of my work anniversary, I’ve been reflecting on privilege it is to wake up each morning and do what I do. Every day people entrust to me one of their most precious possessions: their stories.
As an editor, I am invited into that rare sacred space between the writer and the reader, between the idea and the written word, between private musings and public declarations.
When people think of editor types, they often conjure up images of dour-faced schoolmarms with red pens poised. And while I admit that I delight in a well-placed semicolon or a properly punctuated possessive, there’s more to editing than the rules of grammar.
Sometimes an editor’s job is to find the pulse of a manuscript and resuscitate it. Sometimes an editor’s job is to hold the author’s hand and coax her through the final chapter. Sometimes the editor’s job is to recognize a thing of beauty and then get out of the way.
Whether you’re an editor or a comma queen or just someone who appreciates the process of words coming to life, I thought you might enjoy these quotes about editing I’ve been collecting over the years.
I have rewritten—often several times—every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.
So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.
“The editor is always right.” The corollary is that no writer will take all of his or her editor’s advice; for all have sinned and fallen short of editorial perfection. Put another way, to write is human, to edit is divine.
I really think that the great difficulty in bringing [a manuscript] into final shape is the old one of not being able to see the forest for the trees. There are such a great number of trees. We must somehow bring the underlying scheme or pattern of the book into emphasis, so that the reader will be able to see the forest in spite of the many trees.
Every editor becomes a de facto therapist, whether or not he engages in the therapeutic as well as the editorial process. His author presents a set of symptoms as clearly as a patient visiting a doctor.
But the work had told upon the Editor. Work of that sort carries its penalties with it. Success means absorption, and absorption spells softening of the brain.
—P. G. Wodehouse
I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
Half my life is an act of revision.
I can’t write five words but that I change seven.
An editor’s job is to heal the sick, not to raise the dead.
—Virginia Muir (the first editor at Tyndale House Publishers)
In honor of this occasion, I’m giving away one free book published by Tyndale House Publishers. To be eligible to win, write a comment with one of your favorite quotes (editing related or not). I’ll be selecting the winner on Monday!
On writing: “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” -Agatha Christie
On hardship: “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” -Mexican Proverb
Barbara Erickson says
“A bend in the road is not the end of the road…unless you fail to make the turn.”
“you were gonna drink the fat!” -Rachel on Friends.
Two quotes about editing I like:
“Of course, when you correct the errors of others, do so with kindness, in the hope that later writers will be as kind when they correct yours.”
– from the Art of the Footnote by Francis A. Burkle-Young & Saundra Rose Maley
“The holiest hyphen in literature is the hyphen in Moby-Dick” -Mary Norris
Stacey Thureen says
Stephanie, congrats on your anniversary at Tyndale House! I liked all of the quotes you suggested. Here’s one I reflect on often:
“The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.”
~ Henri Nouwen, ‘In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership’
Praying for others is an act of hospitality.
It involves opening the door of our hearts and minds and admitting people into our consciousness. We invite them to take residence for a time and allow them to engage our feelings and our thoughts. Like entertaining guests for a weekend, praying for others requires time and energy.