Writers On Writing /  Pamela Hewitt on why intuition is a key ingredient of editing

We interviewed veteran editor and teacher Pamela Hewitt ahead of her six-week course at Writing NSW, Professional Editing.

Pamela Hewitt

What do you enjoy most about the editing process?

I love it when a manuscript with real promise arrives. Compelling writing and a worthwhile story make my day. Then there’s that rush of excitement when I come to grips with the text I’m working on, when I work out how to realise its potential. It’s also a blast when a client contacts me to say they’ve won a publishing contract or a prize.

Is intuition important in editing, or is the process entirely technical and black-and-white?

Intuition and creativity are important in most editing projects. In fiction, they’re essential. It’s not well understood just how much judgement and sensitivity is involved in editing. Language is always changing and each writer’s style is unique, so it’s rarely a matter of following rules. Ask ten editors how to handle a curly matter of grammar or style and you’ll get twenty options!

How early in the writing process should editing begin? Is an unfinished draft worth editing?

It’s often better to get your ideas on the page without being critical or analytical. Editing is best done in a cooler frame of mind than the rush of energy that accompanies creative bursts. Writers develop a balance that works for them. Some like to finish the entire manuscript before editing, while others revise when they finish a chapter or a section. When you’ve done all you can and the writing needs something more, it may be time to bring in the objective eye of a professional editor.

Pamela Hewitt is an accredited editor who has worked in editing and publishing for over 25 years. After an in-house career in educational and academic editing, she established a freelance editorial practice focusing on memoir, fiction and creative non-fiction. A qualified teacher, Pamela has presented editing and writing programs for universities, vocational educational colleges, writers’ centres, and societies of editors around Australia and internationally.

Professional Editing will take place at Writing NSW over six evenings from 22 May to 26 June. 

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