Thursday, December 23, 2010

Editorial voice

Now, this is probably going to open a minor can of worms. The concept of an editor having a 'voice' would likely upset most writers.

It's supposed to be *my* voice!

Well, yes, it is. But truthfully, an editor cannot help but place a subtle fingerprint, unless they are a bad editor of the kind who simply doesn't do his or her job. Of course, the other kind of bad editor is the one who does subsume the author's voice with his own.

But editors are still human. Where there is a grammatical controversy, and the English language has many, an editor will jump the same way every time, even if it differs from the writer's. And while a good editor is focused entirely on making a story more what the writer intended, the editor will still leave marks.

Is this a bad thing? No.

I have in front of me two anthologies, both of which I very much enjoyed. However, the second one reads as much more of a coherent whole than the first. The stories belong together. And that is what got me thinking about this editorial voice thing.

The voice of the editor comes through, of course, most strongly in the choice of stories (or at least writers, in the case of solicited works). But it also comes through in the way grammar is corrected. The order in which the stories are placed between the covers, yes, but also the way they are presented.

A good editor takes a disparate collection of stories linked by a general overall theme and makes them work together, complementing one another.

The interesting thing is that these two anthologies were edited by the same person. The difference even a few months of experience makes...