When I graduated college, I got it into my head that I really, Really, REALLY wanted to be an editor. I’m not sure why–I don’t think, at the time, I had any clear idea of how books came into being or what editors really did. But I wanted it, and so I managed to swing myself a series of unpaid internships: one doing proofreading for a publishing company that produced craft and how-to books, one working the slush-pile at a publishing house that dealt with middle-grade fiction.
Neither of these was editing, though.
Finally, I found an unpaid internship (as far as I know, a paid internship is slightly more rare than a unicorn) with a company called The Editorial Department.
I called. There were six applicants ahead of me (one, I later learned, was an ex-boyfriend). They asked me to do a sample edit of a partial manuscript.
To my joy, amazement, and rapture…they called me back.
That was ten years ago or so. I finally figured out how books come into existence, and I’ve helped midwife quite a lot of them over the years. The best part, though, is that I’ve finally figured out what editors (should) do:
- We should be completely honest with you about your manuscript. Nobody wants to pay a lot of money to get jerked around.
- We should be encouraging, because writing can be an emotionally draining process.
- We should kick your ass–not because we’re jerks, but because we want you to succeed.
- We should always try to offer more than one solution to the problem (because there is ALWAYS more than one way to tackle an issue, and you deserve options).
…we should also do things like provide meaningful feedback on your plot and characters, help you develop your voice, offer tips and tricks to master style, correct your peccadilloes, and get back to you on time. But if your editor isn’t honest, encouraging, ass-kicking, and committed to problem solving…well, I’m not sure they’re much of an editor.*
*I should be clear: I am a developmental editor, and I’m speaking about developmental editing 99% of the time. Copy editors are not there to fix your protagonist, and you shouldn’t even consider line editing until AFTER you’ve gone through some degree of developmental editing. /aside
Anyway, that’s me. Or at least I hope it is. I don’t do this out of some perverse sense of cruelty, and I don’t derive any joy from telling an author their work needs, well, work. But I love process, especially the writing process, and to see an author’s story go out into the world, knowing that it’s as good as it can possible be…that’s something special.