Forums Club Ed Editors’ Forum Editing Literary Fiction

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    • #74511
      Jennifer Lawler

      Most of the time I talk about aspects of editing genre fiction because (a) that’s the most common type of fiction freelancers are asked to edit and (b) it’s a lot easier to talk about editing when we have some basic parameters in place (genre conventions, reader expectations).

      But I do get asked a lot about editing literary fiction and I’m trying to wrap my mind around what such a class would look like. I admit that when I edit literary fiction, I am going by what we might call “intuition” a lot more than when I’m editing genre fiction. I’m kicking around some ideas about what that means.

      Someone whose name I can’t recall once said, “Every novel tells you how to write it” and I think something similar could be said about lit fic; the story tells you how to edit it. But what does that meeeeean???

      I’m working on it.

    • #76896
      Jake Nicholls

      That’s definitely a tricky one! I guess literary fiction could be regarded as much more subjective than genre fiction, in that its focus is less on reader engagement and more on things like experimentation with form and theme? In that sense, it has similarities to poetry – and I have no idea how you’d begin to approach editing someone else’s poetry! I suspect it would be a more collaborative approach with the author – making sure their ‘voice’ comes through the text, strengthening the thematic threads…

      Would you say, in your experience, that editing literary fiction involves more attention to the prose itself, and therefore tends to lean further towards line editing?

    • #77716
      Jennifer Lawler

      Jake, over the weekend one conclusion I reached was that I do a lot more at the sentence level than when I develop genre fiction, so that tracks. Hmm.

      The discussion we had about CRAWDADS brought out the interesting point of what might happen if one tries to apply genre thinking to lit fic (the addition of the murder). Someone trying to make this upmarket lit fiction rather than strictly a character study grafted on subplot that didn’t really work. Not that this seems to have affected the novel’s popularity! But it’s a real risk when working with lit fiction.

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