Thursday, September 7, 2017

Inside the Editor's Den: Training & Expertise

Today in part two of our September series Inside the Editor’s Den, we ask our wonderful BRP editors about their training and expertise with the following question:


Elle Carter Neal
Website | FB | Tw
Elle Carter Neal - I started off in very poorly-paid intern positions first at a magazine and then a small-press in London. Training involved being shown how to work the coffee machine, learning the tea/coffee/sugar/milk preferences of the junior editors, and getting a cuppa to each of them before they yelled for one. This is a skill that has stood me in great... hmm, never mind.

I worked my way up to one of the coveted slush pile jobs, but I quit after a few weeks for two reasons: I wasn’t ruthless enough (I was sending far too many manuscripts upstairs), and I spent a night almost-homeless (a kind receptionist at a back-packing hostel let me bunk under the front desk for the night shift) because the “pay” was too low for me to survive. Most of the other interns there were bar-keeping at nights to make ends meet. I packed it in for the first paying job I was offered : a full-time secretarial position at a hospital (where I only had one person to make coffee for). Unfortunately, my silly insistence on eating and living somewhere meant that my “career” veered off into the medical industry. Publishing didn’t want me back.

Since then, I have critiqued, edited, or proofread over a million words, freelance. I constantly read and analyse fiction, and read and analyse books and articles on writing craft. I write my own books, hire editors, and listen to and learn from them. And sometimes I argue with them ;-)

Linda Lane
Website | Denver Editor | FB
Linda Lane - I was an English major, which doesn’t quite qualify me as an editor. [As noted in part 1 of Inside the Editor's Den], however, I worked extensively in the Language Arts Department of a Washington school district, which did wonders to hone my own skills. Also, I have been an avid reader since childhood. Other than that, I instinctively know what works and doesn’t work in a story, and I have my trusty all-things-pertaining-to-writing-and-grammar guide—The Chicago Manual of Style.

Shonell Bacon
Website | FB | Tw
Shonell Bacon - I don’t have a degree in editing, but I do have degrees in mass communication, English, and creative writing. I’m fairly sure that my MFA in creative writing (fiction) is what gave me the wonderful tools to grow as an editor. Studying all forms of fiction, attending and participating in fiction workshops where I had my stories critiqued and had to critique others’ stories, and learning the form and theory of both fiction and poetry provided me the language to explain what worked well and didn’t work well in others’ works. Aside from education, I’ve been teaching since 2001, and I know that teaching years of English Composition, Advanced Grammar, and mass comm courses like Writing for the Media, Emerging Media Practices, and New Media Management have enabled me to learn, practice, and teach many aspects of writing.

Maryann Miller
Website | FB | Tw
Maryann Miller - My initial training as an editor came from the owner and publisher of a slick, quarterly magazine where I worked for a number of years. He had been in the printing business for a long time and taught me how to copy edit by placing a blank white sheet of paper over the article and reading each line backwards. After I did copy editing for a couple of years, I was promoted to acquisitions editor and worked with area freelance writers to assign story ideas and oversee the completion of each feature and news story. This was all before computers and the internet, so everything was done on typewriters and copiers.

A Writer’s Takeaway

When searching for an editor, education is important, but experience is worth its weight in gold. Having a degree shows a person was able to retain enough information to jump the hoops of academia. Experience shows that a person is able to take knowledge and apply it to others' work and help to make it a practice for writers to use that knowledge in future works.

Janet Jackson once sang, "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" Same question can be used here when looking for an editor. What has the editor done with the knowledge they have?

Listen to prospective editors' responses to this question and decide how their experience blends with your needs in an editor.


  1. Education, experience, and a genuine concern for the future reputation of the writer and the quality of the work all contribute to the toolbox the editor brings to the table. In addition, good editors often become teachers in working with writers, hoping the lessons learned from the editing experience are applied to the next writing project.

    1. I totally agree, Linda. Especially about the teacher part. It's great to be able to return a polished manuscript, but it's even better to be able to teach lessons that writers can learn and use in future work!

  2. This series has been great fun, Shon, and you did a terrific job putting it all together.

    I am currently editing for a client in Nigeria, who came to me with her second book because she was so pleased with how I was able to respect the cultural and language differences between the U.S. and her country. It was a pleasure for me to learn a bit about her world, and I sent frequent e-mails wanting clarification of points I did not understand. We both found it an enriching experience.

    1. Thank YOU for participating, Maryann.

      And the story about your client--LOVE it. I think it's equally rewarding when we the editors learn through our editing process. <3


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