July 25, 2011

Upcoming Class from Barbara Sjoholm: Thinking Like a Developmental Editor

I’ve been teaching developmental editing in one way or another for about eight years, mostly to people who  already have had some editing experience, whether it be copyediting or proofing. Many editors have a yen to work more directly with writers of fiction and creative nonfiction. These editors can find it challenging to move from correcting grammar to analyzing an entire manuscript. In the current eight-week class I teach online through the Author-Editor Clinic (Introduction to Developmental Editing), we practice doing just that: adapting our strengths in other forms of editing to focusing on issues like character, plot, and narrative pacing. 

But in addition to working with more or less experienced editors, I’ve long wished to teach people with little or no experience as editors what it means to respond intelligently and usefully to a writer’s manuscript. My interest comes being a writer myself and from having taught creative writing classes and workshops--and just hanging around other writers for many years and hearing what they say about  colleagues' work. 

A writer can be another writer’s best critic—or her worst. A writer can understand just what is being said or not said in a memoir or novel, where the story’s heart is, and what’s stopping the writer from getting to the psychological core of the piece. A writer knows instinctively about blocks and feints, about moments of fake honesty and drippy sentiment—she’s usually written many such scenes herself and then rewritten them. But most writers have some difficulty communicating their thoughts to other writers. They may be too blunt or too directive. They may dive immediately into what they would do instead, if they were writing this story. 

Hence, my decision to teach an online class this September that is designed more with the untried editor in mind: she who writes, or would like to write, or would like to edit fiction and creative nonfiction, or would just like to be a better reader to her writer friends or a more effective workshop participant.The readers of this blog, as near as I can figure, are mostly professional editors. However, if you know a writer who would benefit from a very introductory course (if only to better understand what goes into being edited) or have a friend with an interest in developmental editing, please pass the word. There’s more about the class on our website, along with a FAQ that can be downloaded. 

Thanks for spreading the news,

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