Outside perspective

May 11, 2024 | Editing | 0 comments

I’m used to editing other people’s writing (it’s the day job1) and quite accustomed to editing my own writing (not the day job; let’s call it revising) but having Becoming Janice published by Iguana Books (April 2024) introduced me to the benefits of having my writing edited by others.2 How do other professional editors—who also write— handle the experience, I wondered, so I asked a few of my edibuddies in the Editors’ Association of Earth on Facebook. And this is what they said….

Alison Huff: “I like to think I’m pretty good at approaching my work the way I would anyone else’s—separating myself from it being ‘my’ writing and cutting what needs to be cut, tightening, and wearing my ‘editor’ hat. But I’m also too close to it to see the little things I know my eyes (and brain) are missing. I’ve had editors in the past, albeit for shorter content (articles, blog posts, that kind of thing). So I’m a little used to it, I suppose. But it’s a little strange being on the other side of it, for sure.”

Kelly Rife Ide: “The key is to have an editor that you trust. I’m published in fiction and wouldn’t trade my editor for the world because she has that incredible talent of understanding when I’ve broken the rules on purpose and when I need to be reined in for the sake of better prose.”

Eanna Webb (pen name Freida Kilmari): “[Being edited professionally] definitely opened my eyes. I notice when editors are just going through the motions doing the bare minimum versus when an editor is genuinely enjoying their job and really looking to improve my writing. And I’m better at noticing this than other writers, I’ve found. I also find the process of accepting/rejecting changes a little easier, I think, because I know exactly what the editor was trying to do.”

Gael Spivak: “I’ve been edited a lot. Some edits are great and make my writing better. I love being edited like that. It’s thrilling to have a colleague help you sound better. But I’ve seen a lot of editing that’s really about imposing the editor’s taste on the writing without making the product any better. I’ve also been edited by people who don’t stick to the type of edit they’ve been asked to do or who are years behind current usage. That makes me not trust their judgement and I don’t go back to them for help (if that’s under my control).

“It’s good that I’ve experienced this range because it makes me a better editor. I have more empathy for the people I edit. And I am more careful now about not imposing my own tastes because I know how repugnant that is to experience or to witness. It really is icky.”

Dr. Robert Runte: “A good editor is a thing of joy as they show me how to be better. I have a brilliant author editor for my novel. Some magazine editors have been less… fun. But, I usually see why they’re doing what they’re doing. When it’s going to kill my story to do it their way I say no. Not very often.

“I have had famous authors ask me what I thought of the editing they were getting. In one case the editor was brilliant, literally elevating every sentence. But it was pissing off the author and she was right because the editor was changing the style so it was literature, not the breezy style that the author’s 70,000 fans loved her for.

“If you don’t like what an editor has made of your manuscript, it’s the wrong editor for that book. But you have to TRY it their way first or you can’t tell if it’s about the book or ego or laziness. Do the work and still like your original better? At least get a second opinion.”

Liana Brooks *waves hello*: “I started out as a published author and picked up editing after because I moved to another state and the nice paycheck there did not actually cover all the living expenses. So I started being edited by others and moved to editing for others.

“I try to recognize what my editors have done for me and try to give my clients a similar experience. I’ve adapted my editing to be more conversational and educational, especially since I do developmental editing and work with new authors a lot. I like the idea of asking questions while editing. So, instead of saying, ‘This makes no sense, cut!’ I write, ‘How does this work with [page whatever] where character said [other thing]?’ It’s friendlier and it makes the author fix it themselves. Less confrontational and easier for some people to take.”

Andrew Park: “Long story short: yes, I write fiction, and yes, I’ve been edited professionally and informally by friends. Conclusion: editors who also write need editors. I’m a pretty good self-editor (sometimes self-headhitter), but the outside perspective is super important.”

Andrew’s conclusion is underlined by an editor greatly respected for her work on the Chicago Manual of Style: Carol Saller, author of The Subversive Copyeditor and her new children’s book, Maddie’s Ghost.

In a subversive blog post, Carol wrote: “Oddly enough, the largest group of writers who know they need copyediting are professional writers who have already experienced the benefits of having an expert eye on their work.”

Judging by the views shared by my edibuddies above, this applies to editors too.
1  my blog post “A is for Attitude”
2  Iguana Books’ video “Genre Fiction Editing with Paula Chiarcos”


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *