The Creative Process of Editing

Some time ago I participated in a critiquing session for which fictional and non-fictional works were requested. As vague as the initial requirements seemed and still seem I decided to write about editing because I find editing one of the most important aspects of writing. My essay on editing was rejected on the basis of not being creative enough. I felt and still feel that rejection overlooked the creative process that went into the essay. As such this essay is dedicated to how editing is perceived as a non-creative process. Editing is not just a standard procedure, it is a creative process.

The first aspect in which any editor has to make creative choices is in language. Language, also choice of words in itself is intimately connected and part of the culture in a certain location, region country and sometimes a large part of the world. Therefore when an editor has to prepare a given publication for a given purpose for a given public then he or she has to match the language. The language used has to match all given aspects that are deemed relevant. Language is a delicate matter.

Style is just as important. Some people see style as part of language. I disagree in that language consists of the language system and style is about how to address, express and write about a given topic. When the choice of words is made the editor has to decide how to present these words in the publication. The purpose of the publication has to be presented and formulated in such a way that the intended public understands the author’s intentions. When a certain public expects and demands that a letter or article is written in a certain style, every author that wants that public’s attention has to keep the given expectations and demands in mind.

Conventions follow style when styles become widely accepted. Within the limitations of given conventions editors often follow the conventions. Additionally an editor always has the option to creatively use conventions to make a publication more appealing and interesting. By making small changes that make the text more pleasant to look at and to read a seemingly uninteresting article can become more accessible to a larger group of readers. By just separating paragraphs with single white lines and making the title and headers for the paragraphs in bold a four hundred plus article becomes more accessible. Conventions do not have to restrict creative choices.

Editing also concerns the lay-out of a given publication. All the words are placed in a frame from which the words can be read. When the reader sees a black mass of words the reading can become unpleasant. By separating and marking certain parts of a text the black mass of words becomes an accessible publication. There are so many options for lay-outs and the additional visual aids for publications that even novice editors have to make creative choices. The chosen lay-out affects the public directly at first glance.

Lastly editing extends to all kinds of media. In short when the given language, symbol or image is placed in a frame for publication the first choice is where to place it in a frame. That already is a creative decision as a new work is created by making the placement choice. In the media, depending on the topic, source materials and requirements there are so many options that experienced and professional editors add immense value. The final edit of a given publication is the decisive one and when the publication reaches its targeted public there is a case study for success.

In short, editing a publication means that the editor in place has to make choices. These choices consist of which language to use, style, relevant conventions, the overall lay-out and the media which are part of the publication. The issues I mention here are just general points. The editor takes a draft and creates the final version for its purpose and has to make creative choice in the process. Just because the editor is not the author or the face of the publication does not mean that he or she is less important. Editing is a creative process and deserves more recognition.

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