First of all, I’d like to make perfectly clear, this is a blog based on my personal experiences and insights. I can not speak for any other editor, nor do I wish to. I do hope that what I post here is in some small way of help to writers earnestly wishing to further themselves. I think I need to post a disclaimer on the sidebar here somewhere.
Yesterday I made comments on what an editor looks for in submissions, and some of the basic mechanical flaws that are encountered. Sometimes those flaws will kick a manuscript right out of the slush pile. Other times, however, it may really be a case of the story is really good, and we want to edit it into shape. I have to admit; occasionally I can be a glutton for punishment. For the most part it works out well though, and I’ve been really happy that I took the chance with an author.
I want to make that point clear as well. The authors I have worked with by and large are some of the most wonderful people you’d ever want to meet, and deal with. They work hard, and understand that the editor plays a very important role in their publishing life. I love what I do, and am passionate about it.
Today I’d like to continue with what an editor actually does. Our job consists of much more than simply correcting improper punctuation. In fact, that’s the proofreader’s job once the editing is finished. However, I certainly will correct punctuation as I go. My eyes are really on the bigger picture though. For me, it’s the story that counts.
Looking for plot holes, missing logic, difficult to understand phrases, informational inaccuracies, grammar usage, and characterization, and flawed, or inconsistent portrayals of those characters is highest on my list. Those are the things that I’m going to tackle. Many times it’s just a case of re-wording awkward phrases. Other times it’s marking an entire passage, or even scene, and leaving the author a comment on what’s generally wrong with it, and it needs to be changed, fixed, or re-worded.
When an author gets their manuscript back for the first time after a round of editing, perhaps it is shocking to them to see all the changed words; the yellow highlights denoting comments, and problem areas. But that’s really what the editor is there for. To see the story with fresh eyes. Eyes that are not so close to the story that they miss obvious holes, or shifts in POV, and the like.
It is understandable that a writer, especially someone who hasn’t been through the editing process before feels a little bit of a sting. Their work is their baby, and someone is pulling it apart. I am a writer, so I do understand those feelings. It is equally important that the writer understand the importance of the editor’s job. The writer is often way too close to the story to even see the problems that might exist. As a writer I know for a fact that it truly is possible to read a page several times and miss a word that has been left out, or a spelling error. It’s a weird trick of the mind. The writer’s mind knows it should be there, so it ‘sees’ it. There are a few tricks, like reading the story backwards to help make those errors jump out, but that can be a real headache.
Editors are not power junkies, or monsters. We have a responsibility, however, to the house we work for to be sure the work presented reflects the quality desired. We have a responsibility to the readers who will eventually purchase the books we present to them—and finally, we have a responsibility to the author themselves, to give them the best effort in finding any flaws, and working it through. As a writer, would you want anything less?