Editors’ Course – whole course

The course will be run over four weekends. Each day will run from 10-6pm. This course is aimed at postgraduate students, graduates and publishing staff. It is also open to MA students from universities.

Please Note: There is also the option to book these weekends individually.

Weekend 1

30th & 31st January

The key to unlocking a novel for an editor is understanding the author’s own vision, ambition and aims. It is also all about the awareness of where the author’s real skills and writing intelligence lie, and what their blind spots and faults may be. It is about learning, as an editor, to give the author space and time to get a grip on what they are aiming for, and then find the mode and techniques to express it in their own way.

Day 1: It’s All About Feel

Morning – Understanding the Author

Sympathetic editing comes primarily from understanding an author’s vision.

In this section students will:

  • Understand how to engage with an author and the world of their novel
  • Understand how to carefully challenge an author to think more deeply about an element of their work
  • Be able to write a supportive editorial letter to an author
  • Understand how to work with an author on their vision – being intuitive and empathetic, putting aside ego and the emotions, maintaining an open mind and being willing to stand in the shadows

Afternoon – Understanding the Reader

As editors we need to learn to ‘read as a reader’ as well as read as an editor. The session will include an opportunity to observe children of different ages interacting (via films). Followed by a ‘Get into character’ workshop – which would lead to a discussion on the differences between girls and boys, particularly with reference to the female dominated worlds of children’s publishing and teaching and how that might affect reading. This would also include the importance of diversity and how to address it.

In this section students will:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of current novels for 7-9, middle grade and teens and discuss how children are portrayed through voice, character, physical attributes and mannerisms
  • Understand how we felt at 7, 11 and 14 and the experience and behaviour of children at those ages, being aware of how children have changed since our own childhood and those things that remain the same
  • Demonstrate an understanding of suitable content for different ages and the responsibility of the author and publisher

Day 2: A Creative Industry

Morning – The Structural Edit

An exploration of the differences between the structural edit and the copy or line-edit/get-ready-for-production stages.

In this section students will:

  • Understand the meaning of structural editing
  • Understanding the meaning of (and difference) copy/line editing
  • Understanding how to make appropriate notes for the type of editing they are undertaking
  • Demonstrate the ability to write an editorial letter with feedback

Afternoon – Understand the Needs of the Market

In addition to understand author and writer, a major part of the job of an editor is to understand the market and what it and the ‘gatekeepers’: parents, librarians, booksellers, want. The relationship between editor/agent/author will be considered. This session will also explore the acquisitions process including the need to be able to support a novel that is being championed with knowledge of the market.

In this section students will:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the changing market and its effect on authors’ careers and sales including the effects of social media and extra content and the effect on authors’ time management
  • Demonstrate an understanding of pitching and acquiring with the market in mind.
  • Demonstrate an understanding that taking risks is an important part of working in a cultural industry and following the market may not always have a positive outcome – being a passionate advocate for your authors!
  • Critically analyse and reflect upon covers/blurbs and marketing and how this relates to the book as a whole
  • Research the current book market and discuss what’s in and what’s not and why – including a look at the market’s desires v. those of children
  • Research the current publishing landscape and discuss the next steps for the publishing industry – acquiring for the future including a look at trans-media and the focus on story rather than book

Weekend 2

27th & 28th February

The Invisible Editor Mechanics #1

Day 1: Structure – Plot, Sub-Plot and the Three Act Structure

This session will explore how to dissect a plot, analyse problems and help authors rework to strengthen their novel.

In this section students will:

  • Develop the ability to map out a novel and evaluate its core elements
  • Understand how to find the core of the novel with an author
  • Demonstrate the ability to guide an author through the development of a framework to help with the structural editing process including: dramatic incident, points of no return, peaks and troughs of dramatic tension, main plot strands
  • Understand how to comment sensitively and guide the author in order to strengthen their vision
  • Demonstrate the ability to be alert to an author’s ambition to do something different or break the ‘rules’ for effect. Help them to find the effective, rather than push them into a box

Day 2: Character, Voice and Point of View

This session will focus on the importance of consistency, authenticity and physicality in portraying characters and creating a believable voice.

In this section students will:

  • Develop the ability to analyse the effectiveness of a voice and how to help an author maintain it or rework it to achieve the best experience for the reader
  • Develop the ability to critically analyse and reflect on where the author is invading the voice of the novel or character and how to help them correct it
  • Demonstrate an understanding of point of view and identify when this changes and how to rectify it including the author
  • Evaluate different tenses and viewpoints, and their uses in terms of suitability for novel and reader, including: the pros and cons of first person present; third person and immediacy; retrospective

Weekend 3

14th & 15th May

The Invisible Editor Mechanics #2

Day 1: Action and Dramatic Tension

This session will explore what is meant by the terms ‘action’ and ‘dramatic tension’. Also highlighting how editors can spot ‘baggy’ sections of a novel while also looking for potential solutions.

In this section students will:

  • Demonstrate techniques for developing dramatic tension, the use of peaks and troughs and the benefit of combining action, description, dialogue, and thoughts
  • Understand the importance of motivation
  • Develop the sign system of a text
  • Demonstrate an understanding of pacing
  • Demonstrate an understanding of action
  • Demonstrate an understanding of foreshadowing
  • Demonstrate an understanding of appropriate levels of dialogue and description

Day 2: World Building – Setting and Senses

During this session students will learn how to encourage an author to develop setting and backstory whilst ensuring that they do not overburden a text with detail.

In this section students will:

  • Understand and demonstrate the importance of the background document, particularly with regards to fantasy or historical novels, and the rules of the world created
  • Understand the relevance of research – enough research, but not too much
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the importance of employing all the senses
  • Understand the importance of clarity and context for the intended audience
  • Demonstrate the importance of how to edit for atmosphere and setting with the child/teen reader in mind – allowing the story to live in the head of the reader

Weekend 4

2nd July

Line Editing and Grammar

An exploration of the issues, specific to children’s fiction, involved in line editing as opposed to structural editing, especially the need to liaise with the author and how to handle this appropriately. Again specific to children’s fiction, an overview of preparing typescripts for press and the requirements of copy-editing and proofreading. Led by highly experienced children’s fiction editors, the emphasis will be on developing best practice and will include a practical exercise. Students will complete the day having gained confidence in working with children’s fiction texts and their authors.

  • What are line editing and copy-editing?
  • Who should be responsible – differences between structural editing and desk editing (line and copy-editing).
  • How does editing children’s fiction differ from editing other sorts of books:  reading ages, interest ages, concerns of ‘gatekeepers’ re language, violence, sex.
  • House styles and use of age appropriate vocabulary and punctuation.
  • Discussion with the author.
  • Marking up texts for typesetting.
  • Exercise: students to line/copy-edit a short story before hand to be discussed in group session.

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