Matador Review

A Quarterly Missive of Alternative Concern

x

An Interview with alan rinzler

Interviewed by John Lachausse

Alan Rinzler


TMR: What is a developmental editor compared to other types of editors?

AR: Well, a copyeditor, for example (which is something that every book needs before publication of any kind), is someone who checks punctuation, grammar, and may do some rudimentary fact-checking. They basically clean it up and put the work on a level that’s fit to read. A finished manuscript is one that’s already gone through stages of editing, one of which is developmental editing.

When I started out in the book business in 1962, acquisition editors were responsible for signing and acquiring books, and also working with the writer on fundamentals that might need improvement or revision. That may include structure, the narrative voice, the balance between telling and showing, the correct balance of dialogue and action as opposed to other kinds of text, the characters themselves, the depth and dimensions of characterization, and literary polish. Literally line by line, word by word, going through manuscripts.

A lot of writers, really good writers with good books that I’ve worked on like Robert Ludlum, who’s first book, The Scarlatti Inheritance, I published. It was a terrific book, you couldn’t put it down. The plot kept twisting and turning and spinning, and it was just wonderful, except that it was terribly written. It had to be rewritten almost completely, in terms of the clunky, kind of dumb language, and the simplicity of some of the characters. It also had to be reorganized and restructured. The earlier a developmental editor begins to work with a writer, the better. Because writers don’t often see their own stuff clearly and need somebody to start them out and ask, “What is it you’re really trying to say? What’s the point of this? Where are you going with it? What’s your passion in this book that you’re trying to reveal?” And often, that means that before the book is really written, many writers, just as they’re starting and thinking about a book, they’re bouncing ideas off me and I’m giving them feedback.

Ultimately, the final version of a manuscript and the choices that the author makes are entirely the author’s. The job of a development editor is to subsume their egos (not always easy), and to enter into the author’s consciousness. What are they really trying to do, see, or say here? What’s going on? To take on the identity of the author, so that nothing is false, nothing is superimposed from another perspective, not my point of view or my passion or my opinion. That’s an interesting exercise, one a lot of developmental editors have to learn. There have been cases where an editor over-does their work and has to be ringed in by the author or some other reviewer who sees the manuscript and how it’s been made somehow inauthentic.

What’s different in the book business now is that at most publishing companies, editors are not trained or expected to do developmental work. Their job is to sign up books that  can be quickly put into production. They don’t want a book that needs revision and work. Agents don’t want books that need revision or work, either. That’s why there’s been a whole new layer of freelance development editors, such as myself and many of my colleagues who formerly worked in the book business. There’s a whole bunch of the in New York City, New York Developmental Editors Group. They’re doing what I’m doing, seeking work with good writers who have the potential but need help and can’t get it anywhere else. Agents can’t really do anything like that, and neither can the editors at traditional publishing companies.


TMR: X

AR:  


TMR: X

AR:  


TMR: X

AR:


TMR: X

AR:  


TMR:   X

AR:


TMR:   X

AR:


TMR: X

AR:


TMR: X

AR:  


TMR: X

AR:  


TMR: X

AR:  


TMR: X

AR:


      

Fall 2019

Next ()