Thursday, September 28, 2017

Inside the Editor's Den: Being a Lifelong Learner

Here's a truth for you:

Writing is a lifelong-learning endeavor.

As writers, we should always strive to strengthen our writing, and we can do that by

  • Well, writing
  • Reading - books in the genre(s) you write in, books outside those genres, books on the craft of writing, etc.
  • Connecting with other writers for advice, for an ear to hear your writing woes, and for critiques of your work
  • Subscribing to sites (like BRP!), newsletters, magazines, etc. that provide invaluable knowledge on many aspects of writing

Here's another nugget of truth for you:

Editing is a lifelong-learning endeavor.

As you have learned through this 8-part series, editors tend to be writers, too, and because of that, they are voracious readers. They also connect with other writers (and editors) and subscribe to sites, organizations, and magazines that help them to better their editing craft.

While we are working, like writers, to strengthen our talents, we also find our learning through the work we do as editors.

How do we know this? Because in this final installment of Inside the Editor's Den, we asked BRP editors the following question:

What has been the biggest thing you've learned during your work as an editor?

And our editors clearly show that the actual practice of editing offers them many learned lessons.

Shonell Bacon
Website | FB | Tw
Shonell Bacon - The biggest thing I've learned is that the learning—as a reader, writer, and editor—NEVER ends, and I am so happy about that.

In every manuscript I have edited, and there have been 100s, I have learned things. Sometimes, I figure out a new way to help clients in how I write my evaluation memos to them. Sometimes, I make a comment to one client that I realize is the exact thing I need to tell another client. Sometimes, especially with non-fiction, I learn something about myself, which at the end of the day, makes me a better person, and thus, hopefully, a better editor.

Maryann Miller
Website | FB | Tw
Maryann Miller - In the years I have been editing, I have learned so much about what makes a better story, and I have been able to apply that to my own work. More and more I have been able to edit as I write, spotting a weak sentence and fixing it if the fix comes to me quickly. The professional editors I have worked with have told me they noticed an improvement over the years, making their job a little easier.

Elle Carter Neal
Website | FB | Tw
Elle Carter Neal - Humility. It can be tempting to feel superior when you’re pouncing on someone else’s mistakes, but we all make them. And it’s all too easy to dismiss someone’s idea because you would have done it differently. I remind myself constantly that it’s not my book.

Linda Lane
Website | Denver Editor | FB
Linda Lane - All writers have a story to tell, be it fiction or nonfiction. Challenging the work challenges the writer and can create an adversarial relationship that negatively affects the quality of the story. Collaboration within a team-based arrangement, on the other hand, often takes an ordinary work to extraordinary heights and has resulted in ongoing friendships with writers I’ve never met face to face. Bottom line: the work is not mine; I’m the hired help who brings the polishing cloth to make it shine.

A Writer’s Takeaway

If your editor doesn't work to grow as an editor, then you probably have the wrong editor for you. Editors learn through the same avenues as writers, and they also learn through the practice of editing.

Everything about writing, to include editing, is about learning and bettering. If you ask a potential editor the first seven questions of this series, and you feel a good rapport with her, that's great. If you then ask a question similar to the one presented in this post, and the editor doesn't seem to be a lifelong learner of her craft, nor does she have lessons learned through her work as an editor, you might question how fresh her knowledge and understanding is of today's writing world.

We at BRP thank you for checking out this series, and if you enjoyed it, please consider sharing the following link to the full series:


  1. This has been such a great series, Shon! Not only have I learned more about you, my fellow editors, but I have explored my own reasons for editing and the ways my work has helped me become a better editor with each successive job. That work has also helped me to spot areas in my own writing that need a tweak or an outright rewrite. Thank you for the opportunity to get to know all of you better and to learn from you. Thank you for providing us with the chance to explain the many hats an editor wears from the initial contact with the writer until the finished product is ready for the next step in the publication process.

    1. Thank YOU for taking part in this series, Linda! I SO enjoyed learning about you all's process to editing!

  2. As a writer, my self-editing process has taught me that I learn each lesson well, but manage to make new mistakes with the next manuscript. Luckily, I've had an editor who's always on high alert!

  3. Coincidentally as this series ran this month, I was also editing a second book for a client that came back to me because she liked the way we worked as a team to make her first book better. I think that team approach is so important, having mutual respect on both sides.

    As I got to know some of my friends here via their responses to the questions, I realized one of the things that makes BRP such a valuable took, and a great place to work, so to speak, is the mutual respect we have for each other.

    Thanks so much, Shon for all the time and effort you put into making this series happen.

    1. You are so very welcome, Maryann. And you know, I had a similar experience during this series' run. A small press I work for expressed how much they value the work I do, and I think we sometimes forget the value we have when were are hunkered down in the work.


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