Raining Green Ink

Richard BennettWestern Washington beat its old February – April rain record. Hunkering down inside to avoid the deluge, I’ve been providing reviews for other writers or begging beta reviews of my own draft fiction.

During this damp spring spent in fiction and nonfiction reviews and editing tasks, I repeatedly provided writers and reviewers with guidelines for how to review a manuscript. The tasks of a beta review for fiction or a peer reviewer for technical communications are different from an editor’s work.

My April Managing Up column for Steyer Associates is live: Lions and Tigers and Peer Review—Oh No!

Lions and Tigers etc. offers tips for 3 basic kinds of peer reviews in technical communications:

  • Peer review as quality check
  • Skill building through peer critique
  • Mandated reviews as editorial replacement

As you might imagine, Continue reading

Editor/Writer in Tech Comms: No fighting, No biting

I have a new Managing Up post up for Steyer Associates that reflects on editor/writer relations in technical communications: Writer vs. Editor = Spy vs. Spy?

SpyvsSpyThis time, I’m emphasizing what a manager wants to see—and yes, I’m brutal:

  • Tech Writer: Your Job #1 is to please the Subject-Matter Experts who own the technology you’re writing about (or who own the business strategy) by preparing correct, clear content. Job #2 is to follow the style guide. If you’re worried about the editor marring your personal voice and style preferences, you aren’t doing your job.
  • Tech Editor: Your job is to drive the corporate voice, enforce consistency in terminology and presentation, complete the legal edits, and serve as first, best reader to ensure clarity.

Read on for my specific guidelines in relation to the basic rules of collaboration: no fighting, no biting.

…and if you missed it, earlier notes on fiction writer vs. editor relations:
Is that Blood on My Manuscript? Or Are You Just Happy to Ream Me?

We’re Both Professionals — What Can Possibly Go Wrong?

John Gardner said:

“Fiction does its work by creating a dream in reader’s mind.… One of the chief mistakes a writer can make is to allow…the reader’s mind to be distracted, even momentarily, from the fictional dream.”*

editornote2To achieve this goal through good editing of a fiction manuscript, two opposing kinds of intelligence drive the editor-writer relationship:

  • If you’re the writer, you are the dream-maker, seeking to impress your imagination on the reader, to keep the reader immersed in your lucid, fictive dream.
  • If you’re the editor, you serve as the ultimate reader, seeking to impose common rules of grammar, mechanics, and story structure to resolve any errors or distractions that might cause the reader to break from the dream.

No sane editor makes a claim of infallibility, but misaligned goals and differing professional experiences can result in problems in the editor-writer relationship.

Here are some cases where, beyond simple human error, you and your editor might get crosswise: Continue reading

Is that Blood on My Manuscript? Or Are You Just Happy to Ream Me?

editornotesShortly after Leta Blake posted her plea—Authors, Tell Me How Much Editing Hurts—I was walking on a long empty beach with a friend who spent the last thirty years as a literary editor, parallel to my thirty years in technical communications.

On our walk, with the Pacific Ocean crashing at our feet, we discussed how to help new writers get the most out of the writer/editor engagement. I’m sharing here our mutual thoughts about “first edit” experience for fiction writers preparing a manuscript for publication.

What Your Editor Does—and Why It Might Hurt

Continue reading

Why I bullied editors into compromising quality

Reviewer's markup

You might think this post is about you.
It might be.
I have a new “Managing Up” post at http://www.steyer.net on the tradeoffs that managers make:
Understand the Triangle: Cost + Time + Quality

My focus is on issues for contractor writer/editors and technical writing, but the principles apply most everywhere, at least in the tech sector.
Let me know what you think.
(And I apologize if you’re one of the writers or editors that I bullied into making mistakes. You and I know what quality is, and it’s sad that we can’t be paid to pursue our ideals.)