Editing: A Goldilocks Venture

Goldilocks was one of the rudest heroines ever, if she could be called that (a heroine I mean, because she was definitely rude).  Yet, I’ll give her this – she had a formula for optimizing her life experience and she didn’t deviate from it.  The child worked a pattern of behavior.  In the end, she walked (okay ran) away having experienced perfect seating, satiation and one of the best naps of her life.  In short, she got hers.

I liken the experience of being an optimal editor to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but there are some critical deviations.  I’ll start by referring to myself as “Ms. Locks” if for no other reason than I’m not a natural, dyed or aspiring blonde.  It worked well for the golden girl but it’s just not my story.  While my clients are the real heroes and heroines of my editing stories, I feel no shame in identifying as the title human character. Since I’m taking a few pages from ole Goldie’s approach to living, making myself comfortable is key.  

Another variation from the fairytale is that, unlike Rapunzel's and Heidi's cousin, with her natural inquisitiveness and lack of home training, I am an invited interloper rather than a home invader.  My editing clients - be they organizations, published authors or website creators - invite me into their written worlds, their residences of the page and screen.  Yet, I remain an interloper as these are their words, thoughts and expressed fiction or information on the pages that I enter for a limited time. 

Unlike the Gold One’s bears, my clients are aware that their houses (of words) are not completely in order.  Some documents require a wee bit of tidying (just a dash of grammar adherence and correction of an occasional typo will do).  These Baby Bear clients find their copy just to the left or right of “perfect”.  In my role as Ms. Locks, I provide tailored nudging. The Papa Bears are somewhere in the middle (no, I didn’t mean to type Mama Bears just then – remember, this is a metaphorical deviation of an already fictional story).   Basic editing is expected with leeway to bolster sentence structure, clarify meaning without changing content and addressing word choice issues.  Finally, there are the Mama Bears.  Their work requires intensive and extensive editing that’s often of a structural nature and, at times, ropes in a bit of copywriting as requested.  These are clients with tough requests, but of course when Mama (Bear) is happy, everyone is happy.

Also, unlike Goldie Gone of yore, Ms. Locks must keep track of how to best provide for the bears rather than for herself.  What does this mean?  Baby Bears receive light, yet lethal editing (if commas are their only or primary concern, I hunt them down and evaluate the purpose of each one).  Papa Bears will have paragraphs of minor edits interspersed with ones that are so rearranged, they look as if they are wedded to Word’s Track Changes feature. As for Mama Bears’ editing, it requires an overhaul – think interior decorating and involvement of internal or external scaffolding if necessary (why not knock down a wall or paragraph if it best preserves the integrity of the house/document).  Every now and then, the house has to be demolished, while maintaining and strengthening its foundation.  This is not an exaggerated metaphor, though it is a tortured one.  Editing is a labor-intensive art because it molds itself to serving and elevating the truer, purer art of the written word.

As I serve these three bears, sometimes as one family unit on the same document and along with other “editing types” – the original three’s siblings, cousins, in-laws and neighbors - Ms. Locks must be like Miss Gold Diggity and learn each client's house as I go.  This is comprised of two major elements:

1)   Understand and respect the needs and requests of the client. It doesn’t matter if someone asks for Baby Bear treatment when I feel he or she has Mama Bear issues.  That goes for the inverse as well.  They know their current or intended audience.  A Draft Supreme does not exist to spread my brand of writing, but rather to enhance and highlight the style, pattern and delivery of writing of those who sign on for Ms. Locks’s services.

2)   Like most good readers (okay, some), I’m an excellent listener.  So my approach is to grasp the voice of my clients by getting it firmly planted inside my head.  This voice can be seen and heard within the best verbiage, the most challenging of writing styles and every caliber of text in between.  The end result is editing that honors an adaptation of the client’s writing style; it's authentic with the aim of being seamless. Not confusing this authenticity-based approach with false or forced imitation is what results in repeat business for Ms. Locks. 

And unlike my fabled predecessor, living the life of an invited interloper while I edit translates into doing a stellar job of disappearing.  Well-edited verbiage reads in the voice/tone of the author or organization and doesn’t feel as if its been edited at all.  It just reads as being well-written.  And of course, well-written work is well edited work.

Yes, editing can be tedious and involves a great deal of pressure, as I’m tasked with getting it “just right” for my bears rather than for myself (though this turns out to be one and the same).  It’s really a partnership and I am the most effective of silent partners where the words on that page or screen are concerned.  Thus unlike Goldilocks, Ms. Locks knows when to leave.

And as it is for all guests real or fictional, knowing when to exit is the best route to being invited for another visit.  And who doesn't want to be fairly compensated with an invitation to return?  You know - instead of running off into the forest like some lunatic.