Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Editors are not Magical Unicorns

Editors are awesome. I have to say that, because I am one… But I also think they are actually awesome. Editors tend to know a lot more about language than the average bear. They are intelligent, thoughtful people who approach writing with a very analytical eye.

They are not, however, magical unicorns.

They do not have horns that they can wave over your manuscript and fix every stylistic issue. They also do not poop out rainbows that will take your boring descriptions and elevate them into beautifully lyrical sentences. That’s your job.

In other words: You should never give your editor an unedited first draft of your manuscript.

Some authors might argue against me (but, Rachel, that’s what they are there for!). I’m going to put up a pretty logical argument.

My first argument is: your editor is still not a magical unicorn.

My second argument is: your editor is not you. Your editor has their own style, their own way of approaching words and syntax. Your editor is a human who does not have telepathic powers. This means, if you give a completely unedited, unrevised draft to your editor, you will not achieve the same results.

When you revise your first draft, there’s probably a lot of things you will change. Awkward sentences, preferring one word over another, adding description, removing description. Perhaps “bloomed” wasn’t the right word lyrically, but “blossomed” is. Structurally “bloomed” still works--your editor will not change this, because it is a stylistic change.

By revising your own work first, you get to make the stylistic edits. Once those are in place, your editor can focus on making every sentence read perfectly. They won’t insert “blossomed” for you.

While editors are not magical unicorns, they are still pretty awesome. Every author should at least do a trade for editing if they can’t afford to hire someone. I know my book became exponentially better after my editor started picking through my piece.

Even if they are not magical unicorns, you can be your own magical unicorn. Wave your own horn, poop out your own rainbows, and realize that the stylistic fixes have to initially come from you.

Your editor is there to assist in making the rainbows glow brighter and file your horn into a sharper point, not to create the magic in the first place.

That’s on you.