Gazing Into The Abyss: On the Importance of Editors (and Proofreaders, etc.)


A short, but certainly not "simple," blog today.

In the past few months, I've been plugging away at another Gazing Into The Abyss blog about developing a lexicon for even smaller tabletop roleplaying game companies, which is more than just a simple list of titles but an attempt to call attention to the many people that it can and should take to produce excellent tabletop RPG materials. Two fairly recent things have occurred that highlight this a bit for me. 

The first is "in-this-industry" and it was a comment by the esteemed Owen KC Stephens (see his excellent website here, and support his Patreon here -- and if you don't know who he is -- he's even on Wikipedia, so educate yourself) on the importance of editors and trying to give them a form of credit for the work they do.

The other comment comes to us from the world of novel writing and Anne Rice (if you don't know who she is, then I'll just let you Google it yourself) and a comment she made on her official Facebook page

 Repeating Text for Ease of Reading:

There is too much confusion in the book world over the word, "editor." Let's get something straight. All books, when they are finished should be proof read -- for spelling, grammar, consistency of capitalization, for dropped words, for mistakes in continuity, consistency in physical descriptions and so forth. That is not editing. That is proof reading. And all New York houses stringently proof read their books. And indie authors should indeed hire or solicit proof readers. My manuscripts are proof read by two people here before they ever go to New York.Then they are proof read through every stage of publication. ------- Editing is another matter. ------- Good New York editors respect writers deeply. They don't tell you how to write your book, and they don't take a blue pencil and hack away at your words, sentences, chapters. They don't order you to change the plot or remove a character. ------They read your books with sensitivity and respect and tell you what confuses them, disappoints them, leaves them cold, or what bored them. They tell you what didn't work for them. They also tell you what they liked, what they thought was really good, where they thought you did your best writing, and so forth. They ask that you seriously consider this feedback. And they respect your right to solve these problems IF you agree with them. ------- But they rely on you to maintain the integrity of your book, and to stand up for your work where you think the editor is wrong, and they see you as the final authority on the finished manuscript. ------- True, if editors find a book unacceptable, they will reject it, refuse to publish it. They have to take that stand. But what they really want is for you to succeed. They're eager for a finished book they can support wholeheartedly. And they know that only you can write it. ----- The vision of the author as a perpetual child who has to be corrected, disciplined and whipped into shape by a parental editor is a myth. Authors are adults. Writing is a serious profession. ---- If a reader doesn't like a book, if a scene or a character does not work for the reader, it is absolutely pointless to insist that an editor should have made the author write that scene or character to the reader's liking. Remember: if editors could write the books, they wouldn't need authors. And good editors know this. Good writers know it too. ----- Much as an author might love an editor and trust an editor, that author has to stand up for the integrity of the work when the author disagrees with the editor. ---- One of the easiest and cheapest swipes a critical reviewer can take at a book is to insist that a mythical authority figure at the publishing house should have made the author write the book to that particular reviewer's liking. Utter nonsense. Reviewers have no way of knowing how much editing was involved in the creation of any book. And that is as it should be. ----- I've worked with wonderful editors in New York, and wonderful thorough proof readers. But I take full responsibility for every word of mine ever published.

I could write voluminously on both of these comments, and I think that I have (see that other Lexicon blog post again) at least to a point. But for now I'll just post these as they are hoping to spark some thoughts in you all.

Lucus Palosaari on, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ & LinkedIn -- and now on Amazon!

PS: Putting my usual disclaimers at the end today:

A few disclaimers to this before we get going:

  • The following are my own musings and opinion on the state of tabletop gaming and publishing, and while I have been looking into, thinking about it, and studying the "industry" as it exists, I'm a relative neophyte.
  • These opinions are mine, not those of Fat Goblin Games, its just Me, Myself, & I here really.
  • I'm not going to back up each and every point with solid facts from a specific link like this was a scholarly piece. I started it that way, but realized I was pulling in my ideas from so many pieces and stray bits of text that I'd need to link to three different articles sometimes just to make one small point. Instead, I'm just pitching the idea out there and we can discuss, debate, or disagree on it in comments and on Facebook.
  • Also, this is a Gazing into the Abyss blog, a small series I am writing after previously managing to recover one of my old blogs (which you can find on here). I’ve also used this ‘space’ to question Is there even really an RPG ‘Industry’?

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published