by Karin Beery
In high school, I played center on the basketball team. I was terrible. My coach always yelled at me to post up and stay on the baseline. Every game I told him I was posting up and staying on the baseline. I couldn’t do something I was already doing!
Then he had someone videotape our games.
We sat down to watch the replays, and guess what? I was not on the baseline. I thought I was, it felt like I was, but the evidence proved otherwise. After that, I made some adjustments and kept my foot on the baseline. As a player, I couldn’t see everything. I needed to be able to see what my coach saw in order to recognize and correct the mistakes I was making. A new perspective helped me improve.
The same is true for editing—understanding the writer’s perspective can help you improve as an editor. How? Write something, then ask someone else to edit it. Here are a few things you can expect to learn:
- How does it feel to receive an edit? It’s easy to mark up a manuscript without thinking about the person who will be receiving and reviewing the comments—are they too harsh? Too laid back? Helpful?
- How easy is it (or isn’t it) to read the comments? How many comments do you typically make during an edit? Based on the edit you received, are you providing enough to be helpful or so many that it might overwhelm the author?
- How important are the rules? Rules exist for a reason, but there’s also a time and place for breaking them. How did your editor handle the rules you broke (or followed)? How did it help (or hurt) your manuscript? How can that help you with your future edits?
- How approachable is the editor? Are the comments/edits black and white with no room for discussion? Is the editor making suggestions or changing things? How does it compare to your approach
Knowing how to edit is one thing. Knowing how it feels to receive an edit is something completely different. If you understand the anxiety, fear, excitement, etc. that writers experience as they wait for and work through their edits, it will make you a more conscientious and effective editor.
Owner of Write Now Editing, Karin Beery’s passion is fiction. As Managing Editor for Guiding Light Women’s Fiction and a PEN Institute instructor, her goal is to help authors create engaging novels that captivate their audiences. She specializes in substantive fiction edits, helping authors with big-picture issues like characterization, plot holes, and authenticity while honing fiction-writing techniques, such as showing, point of view, dialogue, and more.