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The first draft journey

Linda Taylor describes the editing process of her latest book “Word by Word”

By Hope Bolinger | Echo 

“Everybody needs an editor,” according to Linda Taylor, assistant professor of professional writing. Yes, even editors need editors. Taylor discovered this early in the process of revising her latest manuscript, “Word by Word: An Editor Guides Writers in the Self-Editing Process.”

The book, which walks readers through the self-editing process after the completion of a first draft, started as a curriculum guide for Taylor’s students in her editing class. After she started teaching the class in 2010, she found almost no textbooks her class could use in the self-editing process aside from “Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies.”

Most books available on the subject failed to differentiate between various aspects of revision such as content editing, copyediting and proofreading. Filling the need, Taylor pitched her idea for “Word by Word” at the Write to Publish conference. Bold Vision Books wanted an editing book for its Nuts ‘n Bolts imprint and signed a contract with Taylor.

Sophomore Carson Jacobs, a student in Taylor’s editing class, said Taylor’s new book helped meet a need previous editing books could not.

“It meets me right where I’m at currently,” Jacobs said. “The book was written for people who have finished their manuscript and are uncertain of what to do with it afterwards.”

Linda Taylor's newest book covers the basics of the editing world. (Photograph provided by Linda Taylor)

Linda Taylor’s newest book covers the basics of the editing world. (Photograph provided by Linda Taylor)

Writing the book was the easiest part, according to Taylor. As an editing veteran of several published books, including the Life Application Study Bible, Taylor saw writing this book as an opportunity to impart her wisdom of editing throughout the years.
Sophomore Jori Hanna, another student in the editing class, described Taylor’s passion for editing as “contagious.” In turn, Taylor’s excitement had sparked an enthusiasm in Hanna.

Along with writing the book, Taylor also enjoyed researching for “Word by Word.” She included well-known editors such as Tay Hohoff, editor of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and Maxwell Perkins, editor of renowned authors F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe. After compiling enough information, she shared the stories of such editors.

In her research she read the first draft of “Mockingbird” penned under the name, “Go Set a Watchman.” She compared it to the final draft “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Taylor said, “The difference (before and after an editor touched the work) was extremely eye-opening for me.”

The most difficult part of the process for Taylor was editing the book.

After completing the first draft, Linda presented her 49,000-word manuscript to the content editor. Weeks later, the editor emailed her with several negative critiques. Mainly, Taylor had written to more than one audience.

“You would think as an editor who has edited several books that my first draft would have been stellar,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t.”Disappointed but determined, she reworked the draft to fit one type of reader: someone who has just finished a first draft and needs help with the self-editing process. When she chose who she wanted to write to, she prepared an extensive chapter outline, cut whole chapters and even laid out the papers on the floor of her office to see which sections lacked subheadings.

Weeks of reading through red-pen-smattered papers paid off when Bold Vision Books published her book this year.

Taylor also has a few ideas for books she wants to write on editing. In particular, she wants to write about creating more transparent content in the Christian community.

“I feel like a lot of Christian writing needs improvement,” Taylor said. “Often, this is because Christian writers feel like they have to tie it up in a red bow. As an editor, there’s a role for me to play in helping writers allow themselves to be more transparent in the Christian market.”

When she crafts this work, one thing is certain. She will write and edit the book word by word.

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