The 4 Stages of Editing
These are not the production steps, but the stages that each editor goes through when editing. I learned this at Jim Taylor’s workshop on Eight Step Editing, one of the most popular offerings of the Editors’ Association of Canada. These stages rang so true that I’ve had them posted on my wall for nearly two decades:
He was applying this to individual assignments, I think, but it may apply to one's whole professional career.
Those who have attained the status of “mature editor” may happily find themselves in the fourth stage, which I sometimes think of as “resignation” — wherein you just do whatever you gotta do. Sometimes that fourth stage manifests as serenity — à la “serenity prayer.”
(Ok, Jim was riffing on a passage from Scholarly Editing (unspecified), where the actual words were paralysis, contempt, playing God, and maturity. Guess I was in stage 4 when I wrote on my wall.)
As with all “stages of” statements, the order is not fixed; neither is the progression. One may visit any stage at any time, in any order. And moving from one stage to another does not mean you won’t revisit that other stage again later.
When a feeling overwhelms me, I look at this list on my wall to see how many stages I have gone through already. Sometimes I whip through all stages in an instant and settle into a stage I think is missing:
You can call it “transcendence” if that satisfies. Sometimes the work is decent (not overwhelming), the timeline is reasonable, the pay is worthy, and the subject is entertaining. This is when I reach stage 5. Or, at least, I get there when I find a manuscript I am confident in tackling, even if I have to go through all four stages prior.
What stages do you go through? Have you experienced a stage 5 edit?