Editing is an art form, one that requires intense focus and passion. When you come across a seasoned professional editor online or in the wild, chances are you've encountered someone who's spent an insane amount of time educating themselves on the ins and outs of the grammar world. Language rules are ever-changing, and it's up to your editor to keep up with it all to provide you with the best service possible.
On top of this need for knowledge, professional editors possess a passion for the written word that's unmatched. When they work with you on a project, you can be sure that your work is in caring hands, being treated with the utmost respect and tenderness. Naturally, an editor pays close attention to the nitty gritty details and wants the best for their clients and the writing projects they work on. Because of this, they can often notice particular patterns in their work and clients that others probably won't.
Here are just a few of the thoughts your editor may have during their time working with you.
1. "Show, don't tell!"
In the world of fiction—and even some nonfiction—descriptions are everything. Part of your job as the author is to reel your reader in with vibrant language that allows them to vividly imagine the scene, your characters, and the world around them. As important as this step is, it sometimes can be difficult for writers to convey in words what's swimming around in their heads. That's where your trusty editor can swoop in and save the day! While your editor won't make these types of changes for you directly in the document (a ghostwriter is more suited for that role), they can definitely point out areas that need more oomph, and work with you to come up with something that's truly engaging.
You may get a few comments from your editor that say, "Show, don't tell!" or "Hmm...something's missing here." What these phrases really mean is that you should rely more on sensory words than telling words. Instead of saying, "She ran through the forest," you could write, "The young girl hurried through the dense foliage, tripping on tree roots along the way."
While the first example tells us what's happening, the second is showing us. We know who the girl is (to a certain extent), where she is, and what her environment is like in just one sentence. Language is powerful! Get creative with it; there are no limits to what you can do with words.
2. "My job is not to change your voice."
Many writers are wary of hiring an editor for their project because of the misconception that editors are red-pen-wielding monsters. This cannot be further from the truth! Editors are here to progress the writing process and work out the kinks that are often overlooked by hardworking writers. It's unbelievable how much the human eye can miss when it's been looking at the same sequence of words over and over again. An editor is specially trained to have the eagle eye you and your project need without altering your message, voice, or style.
But don't just take my word for it. If you're still skeptical about an editor's ability to keep your message intact, reach out to one and ask if they offer free editing samples. Many would be happy to demonstrate their editing style, which should give you some peace of mind that your project is in the best hands.
3. "Be confident in your work!"
There's nothing more upsetting to an editor than a great writer who has zero confidence in their work. While humility is welcome in every industry, writing in itself is a humbling experience. Everyone has reservations about their ability, no matter how "good" they are, and everyone is often quick to downplay their unique prose and different writing style. There's no one way to write a best seller, and there's no secret formula that will make your book sell more than another. In this line of work, confidence is key! Your editor can only do their best work when you put forth yours. So perk up, and write as if you're already a best selling author!
4. "I want to help your writing flourish."
Again, an editor's job is to care for your work as if it were their own. Contrary to popular belief, editors don't have a contest amongst themselves to see who can produce the most red marks on a page, they don't hate writers, and they definitely don't take pride in making writers feel crappy about their work. Editors want to help writers become better; they want to teach others the complexities of the language and the stylistic options they have while still following grammar rules. The right editor will treasure you and your project and will make you believe this to be true from the very beginning. If you don't feel truly connected to your editor, it's high time you find a new one. Embarking together on a project is a learning process for both the writer and the editor, and it should be taken seriously.
5. "There's no such thing as a 'bad writer'."
Yes, there's a such thing as underdeveloped writing, broken grammar rules, and choppy, disjointed sentences, but none of these things makes someone a "bad writer". Inexperienced, maybe, but not bad. Like any skill, writing needs to be practiced. Sure, some people are born with the ability to string together sentences effortlessly, just like some people are naturally able to run fast or complete complex math equations. If your desire is to become a better writer, you must practice, which means writing as often as you can and seeking out guidance when possible. Even if you're not quite ready to have your work looked over, editors are a great resource for answering questions about pesky grammar rules or scene development. Find an editor you trust, and take advantage of their expertise.
An editor must be objective and relentless in their critiques, even when working on the most sensitive projects. They must possess the know-how to properly correct issues while maintaining the writer's voice and style. They must also be considerate in their delivery of such critiques. These things alone make editing a tough gig, but it's one that is incredibly worth it to many. So, go ahead. Give your editor a chance. I promise, the right one will make you fall in love with writing all over again.
What are some misconceptions you've heard about editors? And if you're an editor, what are some thoughts you have when you're working on a client's project? Let me know in the comments!