Monday, July 11, 2011

Knowing Your Editor's Editing Philosophy

Less than two weeks ago, Dani Greer published a short post titled "Who Is Your Editor?" The question, for me, begged another: why is your editor "your editor"?

And that question made me think about why I edit. Here's the fairly short answer. I edit because I'm a teacher and I love to impart knowledge. For me, editing is not about receiving a manuscript with errors and returning that manuscript error-free, pristine, and perfect, like the manuscript is on an assembly line and I'm merely perfecting it before it's boxed and shipped to a consumer. When I edit, my goal is to teach something, to explain to a client why I made the changes I did or why I suggest s/he rewrite heavily then resubmit for editing. My goal is to edit and to explain how/why I edit the way I do. The result of this, and this has 100% always been the case with repeat clients, is the second book is so much stronger than the first book was when it was submitted for editing. This happens because the writer learned, received one or more teachable moments in that first edit and applied those moments in every other work thereafter. Seeing that transformation makes me giddy and feel like a fairy storymother each and every time.

Now why, on a blog in which we (the editors) discuss the writing craft, am I grabbing the mic to talk about why I edit?

Let me return to the question why is your editor "your editor"?

Writers that have built a relationship with their editor can spin off a reason for picking and sticking with that editor--they have learned the editor's editing philosophy and after working with the editor realize that their goals and desires as writer and editor blend well.

Every writer that is looking to find an editor and hopes to build a long-lasting relationship with that editor should want to know why the editor edits. You deserve to know an editor's philosophy to make sure it gels with who you are as a writer--and more importantly, what you need as a writer in order to get your stories in great shape.

The flip side of this, of course, is as writer you need to take some time to figure out what you need in an editor and what type of personalities will blend well with you. Not knowing what you need will make it difficult to find someone that not only provides you with a clean copy but also leaves you with a few lessons to carry over into future works.

Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator. She has published both creatively and academically; her debut solo novel, Death at the Double Inkwell is available for purchase. Shon also interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy editing, promoting her debut project, writing screenplays, and pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

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  1. Thanks for this, Shon. One of the most frequent questions we get here is how to choose a freelance editor. This provides another piece of answer to that puzzle. I like developmental editing the most, because like you, I enjoy teaching and helping the writer's concept find its fullest expression. I can pick nits along with the best of them, but analyzing problematic elements and shaping the work aligns more closely with my passions.

  2. An interesting perspective. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

  3. Interesting. I'd not really thought of it that way.

  4. Wow! You told it just like it is, Shon. I always urge writers to interview editors; in fact, this is included in one of the lessons in my writing course.

    The synergy that's created when the writer and editor are a great "fit" is as dramatic as the lack of it when the "union" is all wrong. The writer/editor relationship bears some semblance to a marriage. Like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead, 'when it's good, it's very, very good; and when it's bad, it's horrid.'

    This is a great post, Shon. Writers, take note. Your choice of an editor may make or break the success of your book.

  5. Very good points, Shon. It is imperative that a writer find an editor that they really click with. And what we do is so much more than that assembly line analogy you mentioned.

  6. I tried a few before finding the right one... you know who that is... because even if I don't always follow her precious advice, I like her take on my writing - unless she's a boldfaced liar, she likes my stories overall, so I like her a lot in return! ;-)


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