Some editors are also writers while others are happier to stay on the editing side and find they don’t enjoy writing or have the chops for it. And that’s totally okay. It’s just like how some agents write, but others prefer to focus on championing and selling books rather than writing them. However, I’m an editor who also writes. For me writing came before editing and inspired me to try out a career in editing. Pair them both with my love of books and I can’t let either one go.
I find that writing helps with my editing and vice versa. I think you can’t truly understand what authors go through when they get their revision letters or edits unless you’ve been in the same spot. Edit letters can be scary, especially when you are a new author not used to getting revision feedback. It can be overwhelming to see all the fixes and changes your book needs and it can be easy to feel like you’re writing isn’t good enough when you see your manuscript all marked up. By writing and getting revision feedback, I put myself in the same shoes as the authors I edit, and I go through all those tough emotions that so many authors have to work through when they get an edit letter. Going through it myself helps me to have a sympathetic understanding of what my authors are going through when we begin edits.
When I write edit letters, I often find myself thinking of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of them. Because of that I make sure to point at least one thing that I really liked. This doesn’t just give the authors something positive in a letter that may seem full of negativity, but it helps point out their strengths, and some authors have no idea of what their strengths are. Pointing something positive out can serve other purposes as well. Sometimes something is done really well, for example the voice of a character. But maybe there is a second POV in the story and the voice for the second character is a little lackluster. In that case I can explain what the first one did so well that the second one was lacking. And let’s be honest, for many of us having even just one positive thing can make an edit letter easier to swallow.
Working with authors every day kept my interest in being a writer alive despite my focus on my editing career these past few years. Seeing another author’s excitement when their book hits the shelf can be infectious. This year I made the goal of buckling down on my writing to make progress on it. I’m working on a historical about the Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory from the stance of her being an innocent woman who became a victim of greedy relatives and enemies. Some of you might recognize her name due to the legend of her killing hundreds of servant girls to bathe in their blood in order to retain her youth. My take explores a more realistic version of her story. While it doesn’t have any shocking blood baths, her story is full of intrigue, sorrow, and betrayal. I came out of my research admiring her strength in weathering all the hardships thrown at her without giving up.
Unfortunately, it’s never as easy to edit yourself as it is a new manuscript from someone else. But I have found that once I get feedback, the editing needed becomes much clearer to me. There’s no greater “a-ha!” moment than when someone suggests a change that fixes a scene or chapter that’s been niggling the back of your mind. Having experience as an editor also helps me see things from the perspective of whoever is critiquing me. I’ve been in their shoes and I know they are only trying to help, not make me feel bad about my writing.
Putting myself in the shoes of a writer makes it easier for me to sympathize with the writers I edit. Being an editor makes it easier for me to understand where a critique partner is coming from. I’m sure the writing and editing sides of me will continue to intertwine, but I hope I continue to learn from my writing experience so I can be of greater help to the authors I work with. And who knows, maybe I will go the route of publication someday and bridge the final gap between me and the authors I edit. Then I’ll truly be able to commiserate with their experiences.