Is there a national holiday celebrating editors? If there isn’t, there should be. If we can celebrate talking like a pirate, we should celebrate editors, especially as authors.
There are all sorts of editors, but there’s one particular breed I’m thinking of—novel editors. Why? Because in their profession, we the authors pay them to tell us our babies are ugly.
You get that, right? An editor’s job is to tear your novel apart and tell you what’s wrong with it and how to fix it. It’s not just looking for misspellings or bad grammar; that’s proofreading. Editing is completely different.
It’s a tough job being an editor. You have to deal with poorly written material and long, stressful projects and crazy deadlines. And when you finish a project, often all you have to look forward to is an angry, hurt client.
Yes, people do this for a living. Novel editors are gluttons for punishment, and they never get the kudos they deserve.
That being said, not every editor is awesome. Many are just starting and need to get some clients under their belts. And of course you’re the author of your story, so you get the final say. But if you’ve done your research and had a sample edit completed and know the kind of edit you need, nine times out of ten, your editor is worth listening to.
My editor is also my best friend. Maybe in some situations that wouldn’t work, but not in this one. We’re all about actually helping each other, so if I write something that stinks, she tells me so I can fix it and learn.
And also, yesterday was her birthday. So I wanted to jot down a few thoughts on why editors are awesome just to celebrate.
She doesn’t always agree with me
Yes, that’s something to celebrate. If you agree on everything, nothing in your novel will change. Don’t be naive enough to think that your first draft is ready to publish. Your second draft may not be ready to publish. That’s only true if your name is Stephen King. (And if your name is Stephen King, hello, sir! I’m a huge fan!)
She listens to me
Even if we disagree about something in the story, I am free to tell her why it’s important that it remain the way I’ve written it. But if I can’t sell her on it, then I know I haven’t developed the concept enough, and something needs to change. Listening is a two-way street. She has to listen to me, and I have to listen to her. Ultimately, the decision is mine as the author, but it’s always better to make an informed decision. And if I don’t listen to my editor, who will I listen to?
She takes time to know my story
My editor takes the time she needs to understand the point and purpose of my story before she starts working on it. We have conversations and discussions before the work starts so that she understands where I’m coming from and what I want the story to accomplish.
And she keeps all that in mind as she’s editing, so that she can make sure the story retains its integrity. She doesn’t change my voice to match hers. She edits within my voice so that I can become the best version of myself.
She cleans up my mess like a pro
Oftentimes my manuscripts are a jumble of disconnected thoughts and characters who aren’t good at expressing themselves. My editor can step back from my mess and make sense of it, and that’s not something I can do. I’m too close to my story, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
I like to think of my novels like messy rooms. When you stand in the middle and look at one section of the floor, it doesn’t look that bad. But when you stand in the doorway and look at the whole room, it looks like a computer store, a bedding store, a clothing store, and a bookstore exploded. It’s a mess, and while I can find my way around, nobody else can. It’s the same way with a novel.
She genuinely wants to help me
The editors I know aren’t selfish people. If you’re selfish and only care about your own time and projects, don’t go into editing. It’s a tremendous drain on your time and energy resources, and the only way you can do it well and keep doing it well is to actually care about the quality of your clients’ work. There’s no other motivation that will keep an editor going, because I guarantee they don’t get paid anywhere close to what they’re worth.
She honestly wants to do a great job
If I’m happy with my editor’s work, I’ll tell others about it. (What do you think I’m doing with this blog post?) If I’m not happy, I won’t. So of course she wants to do her best. Of course she wants to help me make my story the best it can be. She’s not in it for the money, I can promise you that. Self-employed editors have to be in the business for a very long time before they can charge decent rates. Either that or you have to have a specialty that your particular industry values. But even then, editing is a heck of a lot of work for a relatively small paycheck. So, as it is with authors, word of mouth is often the best marketing an editor can have.
That’s just a handful of reasons why my editor is awesome. And if you’re honest about your own editor, you will probably agree.
So send your editor an email or a note or a card… or write a blog post about them. Let them know how much you appreciate them. Sure, you’re paying them to tell you what’s wrong with your vision, but somebody’s gotta do it.
Looking for an awesome editor? Check out the list I’ve compiled of the amazing ones I know and get in touch with them. They’re all amazing!