Fictivity: Controlled Editing


Editors are human beings — a statement which may surprise some.

Upon reading a piece of work, an editor, as a reader, is as inclined to feel emotional responses, develop expectations, and to have opinions as any other reader. But in the type of editing known as Controlled Editing, the feedback given to the writer is strictly limited. Controlled Editing and Guided Editing usually work together.

To what is Controlled Editing limited?

It depends upon the overall nature of the work as understood from the earlier step known as a Listening Edit, which we looked at last time. An editor who 'listens' to a work until he or she understands it conceptually may have much to say about it, but in a Controlled Edit he or she says only that which pertains to the writer’s central message or theme.

How does that work in practice?

Let’s say as an editor you have read over a short story about a young girl who meets a strange young man in a rather odd wintry setting. The young man leads her into the snowy woods and they find an old piano lodged between two trees, decaying and dilapidated, but possessing enough of its earlier virtues to tap out a song using worn keys. The story I am referring to exists — it’s called ‘Missing Notes’ and appears in Issue Three of the Inner Circle Writers’ Magazine. I’m using it as an example, because it is not a straightforward tale: it has many layers of complexity and symbolism. An editor, reading it, might develop a range of ideas about it and might fall into the trap of giving the writer — in this case, author Alexander Marshall — all that feedback at once. But in a Controlled Edit, it is the editor’s task to highlight the story’s core, the beating heart at its centre, and to respond to that alone.

Not only that, but the job in a Controlled Edit is often to reveal to the writer himself or herself what that core is.