Make It Nice: what's your angle of attack?

I matriculated to univeristy as an architecture student. At the University of Michigan, the schools of art, architecture, and urban planning are all housed in the same building. That building itself is situated on the same campus as the engineering college, which sits at quite a remove from the rest of the university’s land and academic units as well as downtown Ann Arbor.

There are many reasons for the segmentation of UM’s land, campuses, and academic units. They range from the political to the economic to the practical (nuclear reactors aren’t well-suited to a downtown area, for one thing), but those of us on North Campus knew that there was a more ephemeral and perhaps more important, categorical distinction between our space and the central campus: while all the folks downtown are talking and thinking and pondering, we, up here in the frozen North, we are the makers, fabicators, and doers. This is the land of tangible results.

And so it was. I eventually abandoned arhcitecture in favor of this, that, or the other academic discipline and that saw me spend the majority of my university career downtown. That first year on North was formative, though. I became acquainted with design thinking, project planning, and other practices that are crucial in the design-make-iterate life cycle; indeed, before you start chipping away at a block of marble or fire up the laser cutter, it behooves you to have something akin to a plan of how you intend to execute on a project. With a good plan in place, much of the “execution” bit is rote and instead the maker’s focus is on quashing problems as they arise, which is no small task in its own right.

Likewise with writing. After all, writers are makers, too. Writers write for as many different reasons as there are disciplines of engineering and a writer is well-served by setting an intention and creating a plan for their work before setting off.

This can be accomplished by employing the practice of developmental editing. Devlopmental editing can be performed before a single word has been written or after some notional amount of writing has been done. Nonetheless, it is best practiced as early as possible in the life of a project since “developmental editing denotes significant structuring or restructuring of a manuscript’s discourse” (Norton, 2009).

A developmental editor can assist the author(s) in thinking up an idea or topic, creating a plan (or rubric) for the structure of the end product, defining the appropriate tone, and creating an outline that can then be used to execute on the idea. As I’ve already mentioned, the best time to perform these jobs is either just before or right after you’ve started on your project.

In my experience, however, I have found that the need for developmental editing is not realized until after someone decides that the original manuscript requires heavy revision or restructuring. This decision can be made by a publisher who wants to print the book but can’t in the current form, by an agent who is having difficulty pitching the book, or, given the recent rapid rise of self-publishing, by an author who has come to the frightening realization that nobody wants what they’ve got on offer.

In these instances, what is typically called for is very heavy copy editing or top-to-bottom substantive editing. In some cases, the client may even be seeking to have entire swathes of text rewritten; this definitively crosses the line from editing to unattributed ghost wrtiting and I do not work on these types of contracts. In all cases, the author/client bears the responsibility of providing the source material.

In addition to having designed my fair share of buildings, I have been the chief of two newsrooms and am quite familiar with the process of shepherding a project from initial concept through to finished product. I am available for all types of langauge services contracts, including developmental editing. Contact me today if you’re ready to lay the groundwork for a successful project.

This project is maintained by anoloriya