Thursday, March 31, 2011

JDM on the Role of the Editor

"I require that any editor do me the courtesy of assuming that I know what I am doing when I bend and break and ignore the little puristic conventions of orderly prose. When I use a repetition of 'and' to link several nouns rather than using commas and the terminal 'and' between the last two nouns, it is because I am after a certain alteration in pace and thus in artistic effect -- regardless of whether my attempt is successful in that instance. When I split infinitives, alter tense in midparagraph, use contractions and elisions and, in some instances, words of my own devising, these are the results of carefully considered artistic value judgments, not shale and litter to be swept away by an editor because his artistic values of style are such he feels compelled to alter mine to conform to his...

"There are significant areas to which an editor might do well to direct his fussy attentions: obvious typographical errors, internal contradictions of the blue eyes becoming brown eyes variety, suggestions regarding structure where impact and interest might be thus heightened, and incidents which a particular readership might find tasteless or even objectionable.

"How odd that a firm publishing sheet music would not permit an editor to alter harmonies and discords and experimental tone relations merely because they happen to violate his concepts of the rules of musical composition and, perhaps, his tin ear. Yet in publishing there are scores of little chaps who have the effrontery to consider their own taste and habit more consequential than that of the creative writer, and competent to make value judgments on what is gold and what is debris."

-- JDM, from the June 1966 issue of the British Mystery Writers' bulletin Red Herrings.

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