Pacific Literary Arts : Editing
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George Bernard Shaw

The Editing Process
I offer general-purpose editing services. This page is about the editing process, the various stages of a manuscript, and what's involved at each stage. See the services page for details about the type of editing I do.

Every book is different, and I get them at all stages. Sometimes finalizing them is rather straightforward or sometimes they can turn into monsters that go through several revisions.

There is a difference between editing or preparing a manuscript for some specific purpose, and working with a writer on a book over a period of time, involving several drafts, revisions and repeated copyediting and such. It helps if the writer and the editor understand this from the beginning.

There are three basic stages of writing and editing: developmental editing, line editing, and copyediting and proofing; plus now the additional step of preparing the Word doc. I can do any of these either singly or together. More details on each are below.

Doing a thorough and creative editing and assessment requires reading something several times, and then taking the time to reflect on it; there is no real shortcut, no other way to identify redundancies and what is true and essential and what doesn't quite fit.

One has to read a book several times to be able to spot redundancies, consider continuity issues, and the overall flow of the book and character development. And simply to be able to reflect on the work as a whole, trying to develop an objective perspective on it all.

After that one can make suggestions regarding the overall arc of the book, character development, plot, and such. One tries to see it as it will look to the reader. That's the real goal.

A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight. It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fastened a halter, but which now you can't catch. It is a lion you cage in your study. As the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room. You enter its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting, "Simba!"

                                                               -- Annie Dillard

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Dr. Jessie Redmon Fauset
Editor during the Harlem Renaissance, she edited the
NAACP journal The Crisis from 1919 to 1926, working with many noted authors such as Langston Hughes and many others. Also a noted novelist in her own right, unlike most of her contemporaries choosing to focus on middle-class African American life.

The Types or Stages of Editing
Here are specifics on the different stages or types of editing. I can do any of these together or separately--or just read it and give you my opinin without editing at all. Also see the academic page for details on that particular area.

I've found the editor's process to somewhat be the reverse of the writer's. I usually start with the copyediting, cleaning up, punctuating the dialog and the rest correctly, formatting the text and go from there. That requires going through it at least twice, highlighting more complex issues for later consideration.

After I've done that I have an idea of the overall flow of the work, the plot and characters' arc, and especially of the author's style. Then I can start to look more closely at the author's idiosyncratic syntax and style, the tenses and voice, continuity, character development, and other more macro issues.

Copyediting and Proofing

Grammar and punctuation. Cleaning up the text, checking and fixing the spelling, punctuation and the little stuff. Then reviewing the syntax, tense, voice, other issues. All the while keeping note of developmental issues. In fiction, making sure the dialogue is punctuated correctly; in academic, dealing with the cites and references.

Common general issues: Following the rules of syntax, such as the differences between American and British English. Making the punctuation of dialog consistent, either the stndard usage or the author's own preference.

There is no such thing as a perfect copy.

Line Editing

Line editing focuses on the prose, addressing syntax, paragraph and sentence structure, voice, tense, point of view, and generally making the writing flow well. Also dialogue, making sure that is realistic and matches the character.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing addresses the basic story and the art of storytelling, involving such things as the development of plot, theme, character, and the many 'macro' issues underlying the structure of a book. It is the most difficult part of editing insofar as it involves revision, cutting or expansion, rewriting or rearrangement, addressing redundancy and other issues related to the book as a whole.

Once I've gone through a manuscript a couple of times (required for copyediting) and have read it twice or thrice I have a good idea of the developmental issues/problems, the overall flow of the work, does it have a beginning, middle and end (first, second and third act), are the characters consistent and does each one have a well constructed arc (none left hanging). Address the larger structural problems.

Line and copy editing are fairly straightforward but developmental editing can become a contentious can of worms. It requires reading the text several times, contemplating it, evaluating how it would appear to the likely reader and how they might respond to it, and finally, how it might appear to a likely publisher.

Tense and Voice

I take a very close look at tense and voice, so much so that I've come to consider it a separate stage of the editing, since it really combines both developmental and line editing, with a touch of copyediting too. You must decide what tense and voice a work is in, and then also make sure that this is carried out consistently in the work. These are the hardest part of writing, at least from an editing standpoint. Keeping them straight throughout a full-length work. More below.

Finalizing the Word File

The advent of word processing has added another stage to the editor's work. Formatting graphics and tables, adjusting indentation, line spacing and such, didn't use to be part of the editor's bailiwick. But now people expect a properly formatted document, all details addressed and finalized, a Table of Contents compiled and so on. Usually not that difficult, but it is a final step that needs to be done.

Once the text is done then I could prepare a print-on-demand and/or ebook if you like, but that's a separate project, involving book design issues and much more. See the publishing page for more details.

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Ursula Nordstrom
A powerful force in American children's literature from the 1940s to the 1970s. Editor at Harper Collins, she worked with many leading authors of the time, including E.B. White (Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web), Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon), Shel Silverstein, and many more. In particular, she was lifelong friends with Maurice Sendak, and edited all of his books, including Where the Wild Things Are, a very well-edited book.

Tense and Voice
Buckminster Fuller said all words are verbs, that all of us in fact are verbs, that the problem is we think we are nouns: "I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing--a noun . . . I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process--an integral function of the universe." -- I Seem To Be A Verb: Environment and Man's Future. In other words, "To be or not to be."

Verbs are the most challenging part of writing and editing. They are the most subtle part of writing, the water the words float in, and very challenging. There are only three voices, but a dozen or more tense forms. And even if you are very clear on what tenses you're using, it is very difficult to slip up and inadvertently switch, and very difficult for the editor to catch since the spelling, grammar and such are all correct, and it reads well, not tripping the editor's eye.

Academia is primarily written in the past tense, at least most of it. This is my basic tip to those who want to make their writing sound more 'academic'. Most non-fiction is written in the past tense. Fiction varies considerably tho, but is usually more vital and 'alive' written in the present tense, or the progressive past. It's much more complex.

Wikipedia pages on English verbs and the uses of English verb forms, with links to other grammar pages.

My Approach to Editing
Attention to detail and a light touch. Thoroughly reading and re-reading, the more times the better. Try to see how it comes across to the reader, and if it suits the desired audience. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Light touch. Copyediting goes through it twice, then start evaluating syntax. Syntax and style are closely related, you don't want to change the style.

Break any of the rules of writing you want. The editor's job is to make sure you break them in a consistent manner. That it comes across the way you mean it to come across. Double-checking if it's your own unique spelling or a typo.

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Max Perkins
Editor at Scribners from the 1920s to the 1950s, well-known for his work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, Marjorie Rawlings, Alan Paton, James Jones and countless others.

Client Reviews
This is the first time I've had any work done by Michael Presky, and it certainly won't be the last. His editing was clean and concise, as he worked actively to preserve the author's voice while making it as smooth as possible for the reader. He was fast and thorough, and his services were not extravagantly priced. Excelsior!

Thomas B., Author

Mike is an amazing editor. He worked on my novel (over 100,000 words so it was no easy feat) and made it better than I could have ever hoped for. He found errors I overlooked, placed the correct commas and punctuation where it needed to go and made the flow of my writing that much better. I cannot recommend him enough. This is my first experience with any editor and I'm happy I chose Mike.

If you are worried believe me that Mike is your go-to guy, even if your work is a novel and not an academic project. He emailed me back always within a day, and finished my entire novel in less than a couple months. He offered advice, two versions of my novel (one edited and one where he shows the edits) and is exceptional at making sure you, as a customer, are satisfied. Thanks Mike, I will be coming back to you for all my other novels. Oh and to the people wondering, the price was extremely fair.

Alyssa L., June 9, 2016

Mike--Thank you again for all your support with my recent academic study. Your deep expertise, incredible diligence and genuine interest in the research has truly and distinctly contributed to its success. I highly recommend you and your work based on this exceptional, comprehensive experience.

Dr. William L. Cowen IV
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Thank you for your exceptional editing on my project. Your services were exemplary. I not only thank you for your thoughtful insight and acumen regarding APA formatting but also for your timely correspondence regarding changes to the document. I will seek your services again as I make my way into the academic world.

Peter F., March 3, 2016

Mr. Presky recently edited my dissertation as part of my doctoral program at the University of New England. His prior knowledge of the program and experience with APA formatting helped me to complete and successfully defend my dissertation. The majority of our conversations occurred through email as I live in Maine and he lives in California. Mr. Presky provided a clear overview of the costs for his services and he offered multiple options for payment which was convenient. Mr. Presky provided great feedback and he met or exceeded all timelines and deadlines for submittal. I would highly recommend Mr. Presky if you have a need for editing services.

Richard G., February 6, 2016

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Ernest Hemingway

Pacific Literary Arts
Michael Presky
presky @ yahoo dot com
310 384 0590 : voice or text

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