The third and final editing tool I wish to discuss
is publishing. Merely saying the word evokes feelings of reverence in me; I imagine all the great works of writing being completed in the hallowed printing presses of the world over the ages! Publishing is an important tool to get a handle on as an editor because to me my service is all about helping a writer to achieve their goals. Very often that goal is to be published. Other similar goals could be to complete or submit work according to the brief.
It could be argued that all steps in editing make important contributions towards publishing a book. This is true. However, it is also true that all these steps need to be informed by the overarching thesis of the book in order to be effective. In his book, Developmental Editing, Scott Norton discusses this vital point: how to write a thesis statement. Without this step, a book doesn’t contain ‘a rope to hold onto’. The reader will flounder in a sea of ideas, lose interest and give up. The thesis statement is the hook which makes a book marketable to publishers.
Norton argues that an effective thesis contains three characteristics. First, it is an accurate description of the author’s point of view on the subject. Not only this, but it is the view which the author expresses most strongly, with the greatest conviction. A thesis statement must stir strong emotions for the reader. It grabs attention by beguiling, inspiring or even enraging. It throws the gauntlet down to the audience to compel them to continue reading.
Second, it is original. Derivative thinking should be avoided. Although it can be fine for the foundations of an argument to be well accepted by previous research, any new conclusions should bring something new to the table. The author may not be aware that they are preaching someone else’s ideas. And third, it is relevant. It is central to all the material in the manuscript without generalisation or fragmentation. A working title should be selected to reflect it. A thesis statement is narrower than a book concept; a conclusion is drawn to guide the author and reader on their journey through the book.
An understanding of how to write a thesis statement is invaluable in assisting a book to be published. Guided by this overarching statement, a book becomes marketable to publishers and to readers. It respects other works of a similar nature, but it also states how the book offers something unique that cannot possibly be gained by reading anything else in the marketplace. It gives a book the rope it needs to achieve its purpose for the writer. Norton’s focus may be on non-fiction, but a well-defined theme is equally important in fiction writing.