I’ve wanted to be an editor for a long time. I’ve also wanted to star in a Broadway musical for a long time (which is pretty much the same thing, right?), but I’m pretty sure that musicals require the ability to sing and dance well, not just getting a kick out of performing. The funny thing is, I get just as excited about helping someone with their writing as I do about the idea of being in a production like that. I’m passionate about it.
Which took me awhile to realize, because who’s passionate about editing? It just sounds so…dry. But it’s more than just making sure words are spelled right and everything is in order and makes sense.
I was planning on listing the reasons I love editing, and then the reasons why (I think) I’m good at it. But they seem to be the same reasons. I’m not sure which comes first (chicken-egg style) in this case, but I couldn’t separate them in my mind. So, in no particular order:
I edit because I love helping people. I know I’m not unique in this; it’s human nature to desire to do something worthwhile and meaningful for someone else. Knowing that what I do can help an author see how to improve—not just now but in their future work as well— makes me giddy. It helps knowing that readers will get a better product out of the deal, too.
I edit because I have a ridiculously analytical mind. Some people read a book or watch a movie, and they just like it or don’t like it. Me, on the other hand…I think about it and analyze it and wonder about it and try to nail down exactly what I did or didn’t like, why I felt the way I did about it. I like to see a specific problem, zoom out to get a better view of it and the larger question surrounding it until I see what’s going on, then zoom back in to give the right feedback based on that larger picture.
I edit because I love reading. I’m a voracious reader. A book addict, my husband might say. So to be paid to immerse myself in a really great story, and to have a say in how it can be just a little bit better, is heaven. I actually feel like being a good reader is more important in editing—particularly developmental editing—than being a good writer.
I edit because I’m a critical reader. I’m not gonna lie: some books bug me. I have specific pet peeves when it comes to characters, word choice, and even punctuation, and if a book has too much that bugs me, I can’t even read it. Editing gives me an avenue to right the wrongs in the world. You know, the book world.
I edit because I have a natural feel for grammar. Words in the wrong place, incorrect apostrophe usage, run-on sentences, and messed up punctuation get under my skin. Sometimes I might not even know the actual rule and have to look it up to be sure, but I know when something’s not quite right. It gets in the way of the story. Good grammar and good writing, on the other hand, just make me happy. Beautiful prose fills me with warm fuzzies. A perfectly-worded sentence or a unique phrase is a work of art for me.
I edit because I love writing about writing. Does an editor need to be a good writer? Not necessarily. I have very little desire to write a novel myself. I’m too impatient. I like to leave the grunt work to someone else, swoop in with some critique and guidance, then see how it improves. But I do appreciate my ability to express my ideas and suggestions well in writing, to discuss what’s going on with the text. So it does pay to have an English degree, after all.
But mostly, it pays to just be kind of weird and to obsess over reading and writing and fixing stuff.
So that’s why I edit.