Monday, June 16, 2014

“Hearing” an Author’s Voice—Beyond the Pages

When I am editing, I keep open several online resources for quick access: a search engine to check facts and proper names, a publishing industry style guide, and so on. But YouTube is definitely among my regularly accessed online resources. 

Why? Because there I can often find the authors I am editing moving, speaking, and relating to people, and that in turn helps me “hear” their voices as I work. Not every author has a platform that puts them on a video site, but especially when I edit for a traditional publisher, many of them do. Sometimes they are speaking at conferences or conventions, or are in trailers for their books, or have made training or teaching videos. Occasionally, I find them simply having some fun!

It’s not that I am not responsible to “hear” and maintain an author’s voice—or unique style—in his or her writing as I edit, even without ever meeting face-to-face; I am, as were any editors who previously worked alongside the author before my contribution as a line editor came along. But when I am not asked to work directly with authors, and certainly if I have never met them or they are entirely new to me, I am grateful for the opportunity to “meet” them through a video presentation.

For instance, if I see in a video the same, particular use of metaphor used over and over again in a manuscript, it helps me to know this is a standard element in how that author transfers his or her ideas into the lives of an audience. In other words, I should not tamper with that style, even if something about it seems less than the best writing style to me. And if a book is filled with humor, fiction or nonfiction, it helps to know from viewing a video that the author successfully entertains, informs, and inspires audiences with that particular brand of humor. Ill advised editing could skew that connection with a ready made audience.

How much authors should write the way they talk, how they find their writing voices, and how editors maintain authors’ voices during the editing process are topics you will find thoroughly discussed in resources for writing and editing, from books to blogs to master's degrees. And marketing folks have a lot to say about the use and value of visual presentation for an author too. But if you, too, are in the editing biz, don’t underestimate the value of that little thing called the web and how viewing video presentations can enhance your understanding of an author’s voice.

For writers, have you ever thought about how a publicly accessed video presentation enhances (or could enhance) your readers’ experience? Do you have a video link to share as an example?

For readers, do you ever check out an author you love or are considering by searching for a video presentation they are in? Do you have a video link to share as an example?

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