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On Editing: Vision

Although I’ve written professionally for a few years, it’s editing that is my true love. It’s impossible for me to figure how much my experiences writing books, blogs and magazine articles have influenced my editing work, or how my fairly natural inclination to edit has affected my writing. There aren’t too many editors in the world relative to the number of writers and designers (I wonder how the ratio of yarn-related editors to designers compares to that of fiction and non-fiction editors to writers), and I thought it might be interesting (at least to me) to explore this world a little. I plan to write several posts about this; I’ve even created a new category for this topic. If you have questions you’d like me to answer or topics you’d like to raise for discussion or consideration, leave a comment.

One of the things I love about being an editor is that editing involves having the highest-level perspective on a creative project. In regards to the magazine, that means I get to craft a vision for the entirety of the publication—for each individual issue, and for how those issues combine into a whole—and then make it happen. I won’t reveal anything I haven’t said before by summing up my goal: To show crochet at its best with stylish and clever designs that highlight superb application of technique, with complimentary editorial that fosters knowledge of and pride in craft. I assess every design and article submission I receive with that goal in mind, and I have very high standards.

That said, editing is not a me show. At the highest level, it’s a concert; at the lowest level it’s a collaboration. It’s this collaboration that is one of the most rewarding and exciting aspects of my job. Every issue of the magazine is composed of the work of a couple dozen contributors, each of whom has her own piece to say, her own style to establish, her own creative expression. My job as editor is to work with contributors to ensure their design is the best it can be (oh, yes, that is subjective to an extent*) while simultaneously complimenting the rest of the magazine’s content in order to achieve the higher-level goals. Rarely if ever do I say to a designer, “change this and that.” It’s not my role nor my goal to run roughshod over the work of others. That said, I do often raise concerns about one or more aspects of a design, and I expect to work with the designer to ensure those concerns are addressed. I also sometimes ask a designer if they’d mind tweaking one or more aspects of a design in a specific manner either because I think it might improve it or so that it will fit better into a theme I’m constructing. I’m very careful not to bulldoze a designer’s vision, though; if the changes I want to make result in a designer feeling her work is denigrated, I’ve failed.

I can’t stress the importance of this collaborative relationship enough. Crochet design for publication does not involve fine art. It is a business, and as editor I am charged with making a magazine that will sell. I’ve been reading John Scalzi‘s book on writing (You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop). The book had a limited print run, but if you’re in any way interested in professional writing or crochet design (for, really, most things to be said about writing for pay can be applied to designing crochet or knitwear for pay), try to find a copy. Scalzi’s view is solidly planted on the pragmatic end of the pragmatic-romantic spectrum. And, especially for folks new to the publishing scene, it can be very, very good—and productive—to focus on pragmatism over romanticism. I’ll write more on this continuum another time.

*A bit more on the subjectivity of design quality. Taste is very subjective, as is style. But to an extent, quality can be measured objectively. A design submission that proposes a drop-shoulder, box-shaped sweater in single crochet made from chunky yarn with a 4.0 mm hook I consider to be of poor quality, and here’s why: The end result is an undesirable garment, no matter how you look at it. And, specific to my own editorial goals, this is a design that contradicts my commitment to make sure every design I buy involves a good match of yarn, hook, and stitch pattern. I would not contact the designer of this hypothetical submission to try to sculpt the submission into an acceptable one because too many things would need to be changed, to the extent that it would end up more my design than hers. And that is very much not the goal.

Ah, well. It’s a sunny Sunday morning, and I’m not sure I was as clear and concise about editorial vision as I could be. Did I leave things out? Poke holes, gentle readers. Poke holes.

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EL

Hooray for talking about your editing process. I’m curious that you don’t mention a submission review panel; do you make the accept or reject decision by yourself? Are you the only contact with the people submitting work? How do you stay ahead of trends, in styles as well as in yarns? I love the last paragraph; it echoes what happens in academic publishing — except there’s no “revise and resubmit.”

mmt

Timely for me. Please keep on.

penny

aah.. contributing to my reading list .. :) i find editing fascinating and look forward to learning more about this magic realm i know little about ..

i agree that rejecting a sc sweater on 4mm with bulky doesn’t seem too hard [to ignorant me] and that if you were to work with the designer to make something wearable today (unless the intent was indeed armour) would make it more your design than theirs. but i’m curious what little things work? or is it similar to my having my husband read many of my papers and find them returned with “penny-speak, rework” in the margins or is that the part of a technical writer? hmm… i am ignorant !

i still owe you big glasses .. mum had hidden the photos so next time i visit her i’ll try to dig ’em out.

penny

@kim: yes… like a different button hole or hmm.. i don’t crochet often from patterns so it’s hard to think up examples and i’m not creative enough to design so it’s a different world to me. i guess how do you try not to cross the between line between designer feature and bug. er. uhm.. does that clarify at all?

Donna

I’m glad you wrote about this and I look forward to reading more. Also, my curiosity was piqued when you mentioned Scalzi’s book and I saw how hard they are to come by. I managed to snag a copy online for the list price (not easy to do!) on Sunday after reading your post.

Doris

This is so cool. We designers often talk about the design submission process amongst ourselves. Do your ears burn periodically, Kim? :-) How enlightening to read about this from a respected editor’s POV. I have been on the receiving end of Kim’s editorial scruitiny and I know that it pays to be flexible. She is not dictatorial, but neither does she cave in if it’s an issue about which she feels strongly. You learn to pick your battles, LOL. Editorial points I’ve lost: Not being allowed to use common euphemisms for large breasts, like “boobage” or “big girlfriends”, in a technical article on shaping crochet (hey, Kim, how many times did you have to beat me upside the head with your admonitions to keep the article dry and authoritative? Ultimately Kim was right); having to use yarn shades not of my choosing (those were also good calls on Kim’s part, as my color sense sucks!). Editorial points I’ve won: I recently submitted a skirt design that Kim liked but asked if the style could be redone as a wrap instead of a pull-on. There was also some concern that the skirt looked too long. Once I explained that the stitch pattern had to be worked in joined rounds and could not be reconfigured to go back and forth, she understood immediately and accepted the original design. And once I showed her the skirt on a real person instead of a dressmakers dummy, Kim found the length to be perfect. As a designer I appreciate all I’ve learned from working with Kim and Interweave. When it’s so clear that everyone wants the same thing — the most brilliant issue of Interweave Crochet ever — then it becomes a no-brainer to just check your ego at the door and do what needs… Read more »

Shannon

Keep it up with this series, Kim! ;) = you know why. As someone whose opinion I very much respect on such things, it’s great to hear a little more about your process. After all, there is no such thing as Editor School. (Funny, isn’t it? Writing programs are a dime a dozen but editing always seems to be a learn-on-the-job thing).

Shannon

Keep it up with this series, Kim! ;) = you know why. As someone whose opinion I very much respect on such things, it’s great to hear a little more about your process. After all, there is no such thing as Editor School. (Funny, isn’t it? Writing programs are a dime a dozen but editing always seems to be a learn-on-the-job thing).

penny

@kim: yes… like a different button hole or hmm.. i don’t crochet often from patterns so it’s hard to think up examples and i’m not creative enough to design so it’s a different world to me. i guess how do you try not to cross the between line between designer feature and bug. er. uhm.. does that clarify at all?

Doris

This is so cool. We designers often talk about the design submission process amongst ourselves. Do your ears burn periodically, Kim? :-) How enlightening to read about this from a respected editor’s POV. I have been on the receiving end of Kim’s editorial scruitiny and I know that it pays to be flexible. She is not dictatorial, but neither does she cave in if it’s an issue about which she feels strongly. You learn to pick your battles, LOL. Editorial points I’ve lost: Not being allowed to use common euphemisms for large breasts, like “boobage” or “big girlfriends”, in a technical article on shaping crochet (hey, Kim, how many times did you have to beat me upside the head with your admonitions to keep the article dry and authoritative? Ultimately Kim was right); having to use yarn shades not of my choosing (those were also good calls on Kim’s part, as my color sense sucks!). Editorial points I’ve won: I recently submitted a skirt design that Kim liked but asked if the style could be redone as a wrap instead of a pull-on. There was also some concern that the skirt looked too long. Once I explained that the stitch pattern had to be worked in joined rounds and could not be reconfigured to go back and forth, she understood immediately and accepted the original design. And once I showed her the skirt on a real person instead of a dressmakers dummy, Kim found the length to be perfect. As a designer I appreciate all I’ve learned from working with Kim and Interweave. When it’s so clear that everyone wants the same thing — the most brilliant issue of Interweave Crochet ever — then it becomes a no-brainer to just check your ego at the door and do what needs… Read more »

yarntomato

I’m glad you wrote about this and I look forward to reading more. Also, my curiosity was piqued when you mentioned Scalzi’s book and I saw how hard they are to come by. I managed to snag a copy online for the list price (not easy to do!) on Sunday after reading your post.

mmt

Timely for me. Please keep on.

penny

aah.. contributing to my reading list .. :) i find editing fascinating and look forward to learning more about this magic realm i know little about ..

i agree that rejecting a sc sweater on 4mm with bulky doesn’t seem too hard [to ignorant me] and that if you were to work with the designer to make something wearable today (unless the intent was indeed armour) would make it more your design than theirs. but i’m curious what little things work? or is it similar to my having my husband read many of my papers and find them returned with “penny-speak, rework” in the margins or is that the part of a technical writer? hmm… i am ignorant !

i still owe you big glasses .. mum had hidden the photos so next time i visit her i’ll try to dig ’em out.

EL

Hooray for talking about your editing process. I’m curious that you don’t mention a submission review panel; do you make the accept or reject decision by yourself? Are you the only contact with the people submitting work? How do you stay ahead of trends, in styles as well as in yarns? I love the last paragraph; it echoes what happens in academic publishing — except there’s no “revise and resubmit.”

Rachelerin

I enjoyed your post about being a magazine editor. One reason I enjoy working with third party publishers, instead of exclusively self-publishing, is the collaborative aspect. I always see a dozen variations for my design, so it is fun for me to have another set of eyes suggest tweaks, colors, etc, that I wouldn’t have thought of. I also look forward to the series. 

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