In the past month, Melanie, her brother, and I have become “internationally published authors.” I wrote about my first effort a few days ago. Melanie’s brother, Brucie Hibma, has been writing poetry for years but never found the right way to get published. I created a cover for him and helped him get his first book into print. And, last night, we finally finished editing Melanie’s daily devotional and uploaded that to the printers. In the midst of this explosion of book publishing we learned from Melanie’s sister that she has been working on a couple of books, too! We are doing our part to support world literacy.
One of the interesting aspects of this sudden book-making flurry has been the inevitable process of editing that these manuscripts went through.
Editing a writer’s work is like judging a beautiful baby contest. Is your child wonderful enough to win a prize – or do we need to dismiss them and look elsewhere? Or, in the case of a manuscript, haul out a red pen and correct, proofread, and rewrite until the author wouldn’t recognize their work? Just how many arguments do we wish to have over quirky but “artistic” choices in alternative punctuation? If we allow the English language to depart farther and farther (or should that be, “further and further”??) from accepted stylebook standards, ain’t sumbuddy gonna notice? Will they find the lexical innovations charming or barbaric? That’s my baby you’re holding, pal! Just remember it’s the most beautiful baby you ever saw!
Since this was a bunch of authors who shared family blood (my mom, a professional writer and copy editor at a major Christian publishing company for years, also offered her services along the way) it quickly became apparent we would need to take into account factors that were not simply grammatical. We all wanted to stay on speaking terms. Or married. (Indeed, one publishing service recommended that all proof reading and editing be turned over to non-family members, on the theory that your family loves you so they won’t tell you the truth.)
We made it work. Or, made it “work.” It gets hard to tell. Because, even if there are standards out there, somewhere, they still need to be interpreted and applied. Hence, the
picky judgements discussions.
In fact, it gets uncomfortably like a church. There we are, surrounded by a bunch of other
authors Christians and everybody believes they’re pretty much doing just fine. (The priest could use a little help, naturally, God bless him.) Surely, God wouldn’t change a thing about my baby! Or me. And you can wipe that look off your face, pal. (For penance, go buy one of my books!)