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Fictivity: Guided Editing

Having established the core meaning of a piece of fiction — whether it is a simple, light-hearted piece or a complex novel containing many layers of meaning — using Listening Editing and then having given feedback about that to the writer using Controlled Editing, the next step is to have the writer elaborate a little about that core, using Guided Editing.

All three kinds of editing can sometimes occur in a short space of time, even in the same conversation — but whereas Listening Editing can take some time and is usually done initially and separately by an editor with occasional contact with the writer, Controlled and Guided Editing usually work together, editor and writer in direct touch with each other.

Guided Editing is when an editor asks a writer to comment upon the core meaning discovered in the story. If the core meaning has been correctly established, the writer will tend to open up and talk about it at length, given some degree of guidance and prompting from the editor; if the core meaning has not been correctly isolated, the writer will have difficulty and won’t have much to say.

The first thing to know about Guided Editing is that one lets the writer talk and have realisations about his or her work without interruption, but also gets the writer steered into the proper subject with gentle prompting. Thus in Guided Editing, the editor is there to find out what’s what from the writer and then apply the needful tools accordingly. If the writer wanders away from the topic, the editor guides them back to it gently.

The result for the writer is often a far-reaching re-orientation of their writing.

Writers usually think that they are pulling material out of their imaginations more or les willy-nilly, either pleasingly or not with regard to readers. When they discover or realise that there is more involved, and that core meanings are apparent within what they are writing -- whether they were consciously intended or not-- it can be a life-changer.

In effect, the editor discusses things with the writer, lets the writer talk and in

general establishes what that writer needs to develop their work further and then makes recommendations about that, all the while in close communication with the writer and observing closely the writer’s reactions.

This brings up an important point. No type of editing can properly be pursued unless the writer is in a state of willingness to communicate to that particular editor while also remaining interested in their own work. This can break down in two places:

1. An editor can upset or misassess a writer to the degree that that writer is no longer properly in communication with him or her. This is easily done if the editor misunderstands a work or violates Controlled Editing and talks about a whole host of other issues instead of focusing on the central meaning of a piece. Editors untrained in Fictivity usually have no clue about any of this and so can unintentionally drive writers mad. Even when a writer politely continues to work with an editor who has done either of these things, the real communication line will have been broken and the most effective work diluted or spoiled.

2. A writer can lose interest in his or her own work. This happens usually when an editor or some other person giving feedback has failed to understand the work’s central meaning and so the writer has concluded that he or she has failed in some way. Feeling deflated, a writer can tend to ‘give up’ and shift their attention elsewhere.

If Listening, Controlled and Guided Editing are done properly, such upsets do not occur. Under Guided Editing, a writer can take the central meaning of his or her work and expand upon it to the editor, opening up new possibilities and inevitably leading to that piece of work being strengthened.

What’s happening on a technical level there is of great interest to anyone involved in the field of fiction, and deserves an article of its own. Stay tuned.

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