Skip to content

Favourite posts: Defining the Role of an Editor

December 14, 2010

For the month of December, Write Anything is hosting a retrospective of the posts that have appeared over the past four five years. We hope you enjoy revisiting these posts, as we take stock of where we have come from, and look forward to where we will be heading in the future!

This post first appeared on Sep 23, 2009 and was written by Annie Evett

Stephen King was once reputed to say. “To write is human to edit is divine.”

Although at the front of most novels, one might see a note of gratitude to the editor, I’d always thought it was like thanking ones parent at speech night and not fully appreciated the value a good editor can make with a manuscript.

An editor brings an active intelligent voice to your manuscript, drawing out the best to give you the most optimal chance to be published.  More than any other person involved with the author on their quest to be published, the working relationship with a editor has the opportunity to be extremely intense and personal.

What is an Editor?

Editors will normally correct a manuscript based first on the writer’s goals; having either spoken or communicated extensively with them about this.  They will then look at the shape or condition of the writing itself. Generally an edit will include correcting errors in syntax (spelling, punctuation & grammar) a line edit or a proofread, with notes or observations on the character development, plot structure and clarity. An editor will also look for clichéd phrases, over-used words and the overall organization of the story. Editors will also check the facts and often will look at the ethical or legal issues surrounding the work to ensure that the writer is not going to make a fool of themselves once published.

What Types of Editors are out there?

There are specific services and specialist editors a writer can employ to carry them to the outcome they are looking towards. Depending on where your manuscript ‘is’ on its journey; will depend on what sort of assistance of editing you may require.

  • Structural or Stylist editor gives shape and voice to the work.
  • Proofreading editors look at the syntax  (spelling, punctuation and grammatical side of the work)
  • A copyeditor typically reads written content and checks it for sense, clarity, grammatical and mechanical accuracy, and conformance whichever standards or giudelines the writer has told them it needs to adhere to.
  • A manuscript editor focuses on the structure and flow of the work as a whole.

What does a Good Editor look like?

  • A Professional Editor will generally have a background in publishing or as a published writer.
  • They read widely to keep up to date with the industry and the trends within their niche.
  • They treat each manuscript with dignity, valuing and respecting the work an author has invested into it.
  • They love words and the beauty of the written language.
  • Editors are generally exquisite diplomats.
  • Its important to remember that an editors feedback is subjective and that they will not stroke your ego with their feedback.

Many countries have professional bodies for editors where an accreditation examination and referral offers entrance into that specific group. Most countries also have writers or authors institutes who have directories of professional services such as editing. Its important when undergoing the initial communication with an editor, that they seem to be the sort of person your manuscript needs and whom you feel comfortable entrusting your work with. Always ask for testimonies and examples of work before contracting someone.

It goes without question that if you are serious about your writing and getting published that at some point, you must submit your manuscript to an editor for assistance. By researching and being clear on your expectations and outcomes, you will be in more control with your work, than if you simply submit to the first one you come across and hope that they connect both with you and the message your manuscript hopes to deliver. A great editor makes the journey towards being published a pleasurable trip, a poorly chosen one will make the trip drag for eternity.

Information was gathered through an open mike interview with three Editors at a recent writers festival.

Whats your experience been like with editors?  Any other advice when choosing an editor?

One Comment
  1. December 14, 2010 9:43 pm

    A useful post. I would add that while copyediting and proofreading are very distinct editorial functions performed (in a publishing house) by different people at specific points in the book’s production process, “structural or stylist” editing and “manuscript editor” are, in my experience on both sides of the editor’s desk, combined in one person. A really good editor can think macro and micro; see the big picture of your manuscript and make substantive observations about structure, flow, and sequence (including seeing what isn’t there that should be), as well as set up your manuscript for a smoother ride through copyediting by tending to language mechanics, styling of specific manuscript elements, and issues of consistency.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: