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Creating an Anthology on Editing

by Avon J. Murphy

Pulling together New Perspectives on Technical Editing, an anthology on editing, was a complex, yet exhilarating experience. The process fell into four stages.

The longest stage was the gestation stage. I’d written an annotated bibliography on technical editing for the National Council of Teachers of English two decades earlier. Long a highly organized pack rat in careers as academic researcher, government research analyst, and finally editor, I had several hundred articles and a hundred books on technical editing. But something was missing from all this literature. As much as I’d gripe about the hole over the years, I couldn’t quite identify what I wanted. Tom Warren, of Oklahoma State University, challenged me to do something about it.

Energized by adrenalin, I charged into the second stage: What would we learn by looking at our discipline from different points of view at once? This question morphed into another: How much would we learn if recognized experts wrote separate chapters addressing the deeper questions suggested by their specific approaches to editing? Thus was born the idea of a collection of research-based and experience-based chapters looking at technical editing from various angles.

The collection eventually came to include such disparate angles—the “Perspectives” in the book title—as research methodologies, editing with electronic tools, editing within particular environments, the teaching of editing, and so on. Dozens of questions wrote themselves. For example, what methodologies can editing researchers best use? Is technical editing more complex than it was in the mid-20th century? What choices do teachers of technical editing have for designing their course? How can the structure of an organization dictate editorial career paths? How can copyeditors ensure quality? How have computers changed technical editing? What special problems do science editing and journal editing present?

The most challenging stage personally was getting the right people on board. As Technical Communication book review editor for nearly two decades and as manager of several research efforts, I’d been monitoring the careers of several accomplished editors; my short list of candidates was almost ready before I wrote it out. I was looking for original thinkers within their niches who had published a good deal, were dependable, and would keep me informed about their progress. Michelle Corbin, Angela Eaton, Barbara Gastel, Geoff Hart, George Hayhoe, Carolyn Rude, Tom Warren, and Jean Hollis Weber were all such people. The time-consuming part was to convince each individual to participate. I showed them the shape of the book, its contribution, the possible main points and resource leads, how the editors could individually contribute within their specialties, and the impact of this writing upon their careers. After some anxious weeks for me, all of them finally accepted the challenge.

The final stage was comparatively easy. Having lived so long with the book-to-be, I watched the proposal write itself. Baywood Publishing was the only company I seriously considered, and it quickly accepted the proposal. With schedule, style sheet, and chapter template on their computers, my contributors then set to work on what has become a most rewarding book.

As the writers submitted their chapters, my developmental editing focused on innovative thinking about questions, acceptable research methodologies, avoidance of excessive duplication among chapters, and incorporation of already published literature. On the second and third drafts, I focused more on voice, paragraph structure, sentence clarity, and formatting within my template restrictions.

The full manuscript went to Baywood in late September 2008, Baywood approved it in mid-November, and I sent the slightly revised files in early December. The manuscript is now (late April 2009) in typesetting. After proofing, correcting, and indexing, the book should appear in something like 15 weeks. I’m certainly happy to be working with a publishing firm that stresses the importance of high-quality procedures, including editing. Would I want to edit another anthology? Ask me after I’ve recovered from this one!

Editor's Note:
Here's the pre-publication flyer for the book that Avon describes in this article:
NPO pre-pub flyer2009.pdf

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