A lot has been said about what editors are supposed to be. Every author who has ever used or is on the verge of using an editor has an opinion on that. But, what really defines an editor’s role? Answering that is quite tricky as an author-editor relationship is much like a marriage fraught with several expectations on both sides. Here, I am going to give a voice to what editors shouldn’t be.
1. A Garbage Bin
They are not a trashcan where authors can dump half-baked, poorly-written, and poorly-constructed manuscripts. You, as an author, have to make sure your manuscript is as good as you can make it before submitting it to an editor.
Not ALL editors will or should clean up your grammar. There are different kinds of editors. Substantive editors, for instance, will only look at the substance of your plot and tell you if it makes sense. Line editors and copy editors look for language structure issues. Proofreaders look for grammar issues and typos and the like.
If you have not gone for something like developmental or substantive editing at least, you must not discuss your story with your editor. If you are looking for only language correction, it is not right to expect them to comment on your story flow, or plot-building, or characters, etc. They might do it out of the goodness of their heart, but they are not obligated to.
Do not expect editors to magically clean up every grammatical mistake in your manuscript. Rushing the editing process is never a good idea. That is why there have to be three readings. And, during these three readings, there has to be back-and-forth communication between the editor and the author. A margin of human error is expected.
5. Albus Dumbledore
Do not expect your editor to remember your manuscript word-for-word for eternity. We might remember for a long time – because most editors are blessed with eidetic memories – but that should not be expected of them, especially not after the editing process has been done and dusted with (read: paid for). So, it is totally unfair if an author comes up six months later and says, “But you must remember, right? You edited the book, after all!”
6. Your Raving Girlfriend/Boyfriend/Both
If you have hired an editor and paid them too, do not expect them to shout from the rooftops saying how brilliant your book was. Authors must not feel obligated that their editors must write positive reviews for their books because, “You edited them anyway, didn’t you?” Editing has various aspects to it. An editor may work in one area of the book but absolutely hate another that he/she cannot help. Yes, it happens.
An author must not expect their editor to clean up factual issues unless that has been included in the package. An editor is generally not a fact-checker; that is completely the author’s responsibility. But, some editors are angels and they might clean up obvious mistakes, such as if you write ‘Ravana had nine heads or thirty heads’ but they might genuinely miss out on correcting something like ‘There are 210 bones in the human body.’
8.Bob The Builder
This is specifically for developmental editors, but all the other kinds go through it anyway. It is unfair – totally unfair – to create plot ideas for the author. If an author tells you that you need to flesh out the plot more, you must ideally take that feedback and construct scenes. Now, constructing scenes is NOT the editor’s job! The editor won’t and mustn’t build a plot for you. That is entirely the author’s job. We editors usually keep our hammers and hacksaws away when editing, and work with only a fine-brush and a chisel, if called for.
Most editors are paid peanuts. Not even the peeled ones. Without salt. The broken fragments, in fact. I have seen many an author’s brow shoot right up to the ceiling when prices are quoted. They might spend for promotion or anything else, but editing isn’t something the average Indian author likes to spend on. Many reasons for that.
1. “My book is perfect as it is. Why do I need an editor at all?”
2. “Editor is a janitor (see, they rhyme too!). Who pays janitors that much?”
3. “My readers will love the story and ignore the grammar. What do they matter if I have spelt ‘weird’ as ‘wierd’ anyway? Who knows the difference?
And so on. But remember – an editor gets intimate with your book. It is hard, grueling work, just like writing is, maybe even more so at times.
10. Lesser Than The Author In Any Way
A lot of authors harbor a sense of superiority over their editors. Maybe it is because they feel that the editors only work on something they have created. (But that’s unfair, right? You cannot feel superior to all your child’s teachers just because you have created your child.) Or maybe they feel so because they pay them. I haven’t yet done an analysis of that yet, but it happens. Remember – authors and editors (of all kinds) are equally important in making a good book. Many a great story idea is lost due to bad editing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
A writer, editor, and teacher by profession, Neil D'Silva has been in the game since the late 90s. His articles are splashed across various portals on the Internet, and his books are Amazon bestsellers. His debut book, Maya's New Husband, is well on its way to becoming an international movie.
Follow Neil D'Silva on Twitter on @neildsilva and visit his website at http://NeilDSilva.com where he speaks about writing, publishing, and promotion, and shares his acclaimed short stories.