Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Slowly going cross-eyed ...

I’ve spent most of today working on abridging two essays for an edited collection – The Map Reader - I’m co-editing. For some, naive reason I thought this would be a relatively straightforward task - take 50 classic essays on cartography produced over the past 60 years, edit them all down so that they are under 5,000 words each, split them into five sections each with a short introduction and top it with an introductory essay. One of the essays I’ve been working on today was over 20,000 words long in its original form. Getting it down to 5,000 words, wherein its essential argument remains intact and its narrative structure and flow still works okay (and the essay can’t be re-written or added to), has been a real challenge. Much tougher than I was anticipating and I suspect it’s going to take a few passes to tweak and polish. The real killer though is the formatting – having to convert footnotes into Harvard style references is as tedious as it gets (and one of the essays has 177 footnotes!). I’m slowly going cross-eyed …

4 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - Editing and formatting are always so enervating, aren't they? I do wish you well with that part of the task...

Maxine said...

I'm a professional editor and I am always amazed at how it is assumed that it, and proofreading, are easy. Nothing is written that can't be improved by a good editor, I say. (Knowing what articles look like when they come in, compared with when they are published.)

However, it is very hard to edit and proofread one's own work, especially at book length. The required distance is hard to achieve. Maybe consider an editing service?

Rob Kitchin said...

I'm well used to editing and agree it's not easy, but this is a different kind of editing - we're not trying to improve the text but trim each classic essay down to below 5000 words and yet retain the central argument. Cutting out up to 75 percent and making sure the essay still makes sense without re-writing (which we can't do) is an interesting exercise.

seana said...

It sounds like a Herculean task. Good luck.