This week I invited my good friend and editor Susan Hughes (No relation :D) to take a turn in front of the spotlight. She is a fantastic editor and was an incredible help with much of the behind the scenes work on The Red Dress. It’s no surprise that when I gave her free reign to write whatever she wanted, she decided to tackle the question what is an editor’s role. I know that the subject is close to her heart and she writes about it with a deep passion.
Thank you Susan. I hope to have you back soon!
From the Editor’s Desk
What is an Editor?
I’m often surprised by how many writers don’t really understand an editor’s role. Or maybe it’s just that my idea of what the role should be differs from theirs. Whatever the source of the confusion, here’s my take on it.
A Lover of Words
To be a good editor, you must love language and have an innate sense for putting words together in a way that works best for whatever the given situation might be. An editor has the ability to spot all types of grammatical problems: misplaced commas, dangling modifiers, subject-verb agreement errors—the list is endless. You must be able to pinpoint problems with character development and inconsistencies, identify plot holes and point-of-view changes. Every editor I know is an avid reader and a lover of words. I’ve been a voracious reader since I was a child, back when the bookmobile came around, and trips to the library were a treat.
An Eagle-Eyed Teacher
A good editor will catch all the little things that can distract the reader, put off the publisher, and prevent your manuscript from going places. A great editor, however, will go a step further. It’s not enough to simply point out the mistakes and move on. A great editor has the ability to teach the writer the why of it. Why is that comma not necessary? Why is the word choice incorrect? In doing so, the writer gets so much more than just a manuscript full of red marks. The writer gets instruction on how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
An Objective Teammate
Sounds like an oxymoron, perhaps, but objective and teammate go hand in hand when it comes to editing. All writers need an objective editor—someone unrelated to them, unbiased, and professional. Writers are much too close to their stories and characters to be objective, and a writer’s friends and family might be hesitant to point out errors, lest they hurt the writer’s feelings in the process.
A good editor will be your teammate. If you haven’t been part of a team in a while, let me clarify. A teammate is on your side, supports you in your endeavors, and wants you to win at whatever “game” you’re playing. A good teammate will pat you on the back, give you a high-five in celebration of your successes, and will offer advice and suggestions if you ask for them. And isn’t that what writers pay editors to do?
As an editor, I try to meet all these expectations. I am, first and foremost, a talented writer with an innate sense of how to use the English language. I’m an experienced teacher. I can point out the places where your writing goes astray, but it’s as important to me that I’m able to teach you why you’ve made errors and show you how to avoid them in your next manuscript. I’m an objective editor; why wouldn’t I be? The writer has done the hard part, creating characters and rich story lines. I’m paid to provide an objective critique and point out places that need improvement. It’s not about me or the writer or money or book deals. It’s about the written word. The most satisfying part of my job, however, is when a writer accepts me as a teammate. It’s much like being a part of any kind of team; it takes time to learn to work together. It requires a level of trust that must be earned, but when it comes, it’s the most rewarding part of my job. To get there, a writer must believe the editor is sincerely interested in the manuscript’s success and the well-being of the writer. Do all teams win? No. Do all manuscripts become bestsellers? No, but it never stops us from trying.
A good editor can fix what ails your writing.
A great editor can point out the errors, show you how to fix them, and teach you why the changes are necessary. A great editor will be on your team throughout the editing process and beyond.
I’ll even let you be team captain.
Here’s where you can find me…