Thou Shalt Love Thy Editor
Authors, let me level with you—editors are not as intimidating as you think they are. We are not furry little gnomes sipping coffee and pointing at the computer screen in angst. Yes, we love words and all that technical stuff. We are not (usually) snobby and “smarter” than everyone.
The truth is, we also love stories and creative ideas. Behind the glasses, the red markers, and the sometimes critical comments, we are dreamers. We have feelings, too. We want the best for your and your manuscript. Your success is our success. In short, ideally, you and your editor are a team.
Having edited a few things myself—including my brother’s IM’s, my friends’ spoken grammar, and countless billboards (my pet peeve is when the mistakes aren’t even consistent), not to mention the many books and articles I have edited as a professional—I think it’s safe to say I know what an editor is and what an editor is not. Hopefully this insight will help you appreciate your editor and realize what an asset they can be.
An editor is NOT:
1. A ghost writer. An editor assigned to work with you on a manuscript is not there to rewrite it. Editing by definition is to “revise or correct,” not rewrite. Rewrites are where you (the author) come in. Editors suggest, you act.
2. A mind-reader. Sometimes we think we are, but it is always safer to be upfront. Authors, please be clear and direct and open to questions. If your editor’s comment doesn’t make sense, say so.
3. Out to get you. The manuscript you have worked on for years can become something that is personal to you, and you may even be protective of it. Your editor knows that. They have your best interest in mind. Trust that their comments and edits are heartfelt and are meant to improve your text, not alter your “baby” or worse, your voice.
4. Necessarily knowledgeable about all aspects of publishing. Go ahead and ask questions you may have anyway, and they will do their best to find the answer for you or direct you to the appropriate department.
An editor IS:
1. Fresh eyes. Your manuscript has probably been with you so long, you can almost say the words before your eye lands on them. They are more or less a part of you. Now, before you launch that part of yourself to the world, you need a fresh perspective that will be your “pre-audience” in a sense. Your editor is that and more. They look for what people might think or feel about certain aspects of the book, and they help you work through them. They notice things that may have slipped by you and help you manage them before the world sees them.
2. Making sure your manuscript conforms to the publishing company’s style guide.
3. A grammar and spelling junkie. That goes without saying. It’s sort of a weird knack we have. But, to be frank, a “copyeditor” is more focused on this. An editor’s real passion is #4.
4. A developmental artist. Maybe there is a slight hole in the plot you hadn’t noticed before, or you didn’t quite prove a particular point. Perhaps a portion of the story is moving too slow, or you need to back up a claim. An editor can help you fill in the gaps and help you polish your words. The editor is essentially trying to edit and evolve the manuscript into what the intended audience will later appreciate (even thought they won’t know it). Editors thrive on molding something and smoothing out the rough edges. In a way, an editor is a creative organizer. Don’t ask us how that works. Our minds are just built that way. And we love the opportunity to work with another creative mind to bring that to life.