Monday, 17 October 2016

What Makes a Good Editor?

Free range editing.
I came across this Toni Morrison quote on Twitter:

'Good editors are really the third eye. Cool. Dispassionate. They don't love you or your work; for me that is what is valuable - not compliments. 

Sometimes it's uncanny; the editor puts his or her finger on exactly the place the writer knows is weak but just couldn't do any better. Or perhaps the writer thought it might fly, but wasn't sure. Good editors identify that place, and sometimes make suggestions. Some suggestions are not useful because you can't explain everything to an editor about what you are trying to do. I couldn't possibly explain all of those things to an editor, because what I do has to work on so many levels. But within the relationship, if there is some trust, some willingness to listen, remarkable things can happen. I read books all the time that I know would have profited from, not a copy editor, but somebody just talking through it.'

It really struck a chord with me - I love nothing more than when my editorial notes ring true for an author. It means they are really keen to work and improve, and it means I've understood, as far as anyone can, what they're trying to achieve. 

Searching for the source for this quote lead me to this Paris Review article where several authors, and the editor Robert Gottlieb, are quoted about various aspects of the editing process - it's well worth a read.

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