Okay, this is my opinion, based on my experiences–and your mileage may vary. But in the course of talking to writers and editors and blogging over the last couple of years, I’ve realized that people’s expectations of “The Editor” veer wildly. What, exactly, should The Editor do?
First, here’s my contention. Your book editor’s job is not to clean up your typos, grammatical errors, punctuation gaffes, or misspellings on any big scale. If you’re with a big enough publisher, you’ll get a line edit from a copy editor who’ll look for stylistic inconsistencies and typos, but basic grammar and punctuation and spelling and all that stuff is your job.
Yours. Mine. Ours.
In the journalism world, I’ve been an editor for twenty years. When I worked at a daily newspaper, I edited for big-picture content (because if the spelling and punctuation was bad enough the reporter wasn’t employed for very long) while the copy editor looked for typos and style usage. Now that I’ve been in magazines for awhile, working in small shops, I take on the role of both content editor and copy editor.
In the fiction world–where I’m admittedly very, very new–I’m on the other side of the editing desk and have really come to appreciate what a good editor can do. I’ve been blessed to work with an editor at my publishing house who is One.Sharp.Cookie–I’m constantly in awe as she hones in quickly on weaknesses in my manuscript that I couldn’t spot while wearing my authorial blinders. (Shout-out to Stacy!)
Here’s what my editor gives me, and it’s exactly what I need:
She tells me where the story drags and the pacing’s off, and talks to me about how I can fix it (note–how I can fix it, not her). She points out where a character needs a bigger reaction to an event, where a backstory needs beefing up or toning down, and where a scene needs punching up or (sigh) deleting altogether. She looks at my worldbuilding and tells me where it’s working and where it isn’t. She is, in other words, a content editor. She’s really, really good at it. And she’s most always right.
If she sees a typo or a punctuation problem, she’ll probably mark it. But that’s not her job. That’s my job.
Oh, we all have little stuff we miss–I sure do–but it’s our job to clean the nuts and bolts of our manuscripts up as much as possible before submitting. If you’re not strong in grammar and punctuation and spelling, find a crit partner who is–or hire a copy editor to give your manuscript a read-through. Have beta readers put fresh eyes on it. Take an online course. It’s important.
Agree? Disagree? What have your own experiences been?