Fictivity: Types of Editing
Trained in Fictivity, an editor will become familiar with a range of editing styles.
There are five basic types of Fictivity editing. By this, I do not mean the traditional editing types, usually listed as copy editing, developmental editing and so on. I’m talking about a specific range of skills only available to those trained in Fictivity. By ‘type’ I mean a method or custom of performing actions, the overall aim of which in Fictivity is twofold: a liberated writer and an effective piece of fiction.
What type of editing is used depends on how the editor addresses his task and where the piece of work is in a series of actions. It’s all about how the editor edits. A real expert can do them all, but only after he or she can do each one.
The first type is a Listening Edit. Here the editor is expected to listen to the writer, both in person and through the writer’s work. The only skill necessary is listening. This is easily misunderstood to be simply reading and understanding the words. But true listening, as described in Fictivity, means understanding the story and the writer at a conceptual level. An editor can easily pretend to understand a story without grasping the fundamentals of what that story is about; similarly, an editor can listen to a writer explaining a piece and not really grasp that particular writer’s intentions or passions —sometimes because the writer himself or herself doesn’t understand those things.
The kind of writing being edited — long, short, tragic, comic, and so on — is not a factor. The purpose is to fully grasp the power inherent in a piece of work. A writer’s work really opens up to an editor who is really listening.
What many editors do — and what is often considered ‘normal’ in the field of editing — is take a story, read it through and re-write it their way mentally. They then report back to the writer with a list of suggested modifications which effectively change the writer’s work into that of the editor. This creates upset amongst writers, who rightly feel that there is a kind of betrayal occurring.
Listening Editing should not be complicated. It should be a case of the editor listening to the piece and to what the writer is trying to convey with the piece, no more. Judgements, criticisms and interruptions are not part of that picture.
What if the editor discovers technical, structural or aesthetic flaws in a piece of work? That’s a different type of editing and not part of the role of the editor as we are discussing it here. Even then, an editor should take care to only make the required technical level of corrections with the agreement of the writer. We’ll get to the whole notion of ‘flaws’ later.
What a Listening Edit involves is ascertaining and clarifying the core of a piece of fiction in such a way that the writer feels liberated, refreshed and strengthened and can at once see for himself or herself how to make the piece better.
The ability to listen, learned well, stays with an editor and is the foundation of all truly successful editing.
Four other types remain to be examined: Controlled Editing, Guided Editing, Trimmed Editing and Direct Editing.