Let me sing praises to all editors.
HOW DO YOU DO IT, YOU AMAZING PEOPLE?!?
I'm on the other side for the first time, editing for R. E. Vance his magical series called Paradise Lot (the upcoming books, to be published soon). There are all kinds of mythical creatures in them, every single one you have ever heard of and more. Turns out, editing is hard work, dammit. It's so much harder than editing my own shit that it doesn't even compare. And though I have just started doing it this week (Or last week? Something...), it has already taught me a great deal about the process, both about editing for others and about my writing. And since Maximilian Majewski asked me to share, here you go.
1. You have to slip into the skin of the writer.
This is very hard for me to do. I want to cut and slash and hack and prune and strip and maim and butcher and crush. Alas, I can't do this. It's not my book, not my writing, not my style. All writers are selfish, including me. We love our stories. That's why we write them. When suddenly faced with the need to bow our heads to the story of another, we squirm and moan. Well, I do. Did. When I started. It's better now, I got used to it, but man, that was hard. Setting my own writing style aside. Editors, my respect.
2. You have to find not only bad stuff but good stuff too.
We're fragile creatures, writers. We'd like everyone to think that we're tough and don't give a flying fuck about what people think about our work, but secretly we worry very much about every little thing that's being said. It's why we avoid reading negative reviews, or any reviews, period. They can crush us. So when editing, it's easy to get carried away with all the criticism and forget to sprinkle here and there some encouraging bits, about a sentence written very well, or a character being particularly funny, and so on. I hope I'm doing enough of it, Ramy. Still friends?
3. Your own writing might suffer.
The tough part about my writing process is, I don't take breaks, not even for the weekends, until a draft is done. The reason being, I used to take weekends off, and Mondays were torture. Getting back into the story was like fitting a square peg into a round hole. I cried every time. No more. That means the only time for editing I have is after my writing is done, in the evening. I thought, "Ha! That's easy. I'll just give up reading." Oh boy, was I not prepared for what it would do. Turns out, nightly reading fuels my writing in the morning. When I stopped reading and started edited instead, I got my brain to an empty place that felt like misery. I didn't realize that reading was really so important. Now I sneak in a little bit of reading every day to keep myself afloat. Yikes.
4. You must be compensated.
Because editing is such hard work, when you get frustrated and exhausted and feel like you can do no more but the deadline is pressing and you MUST, the thing that will save you is compensation. When I write, I don't think about money. I write for the joy of writing and I'm in control. When I edit someone else's book and want to tear my hair out, the thought that I can afford my dental visit after I'm done is what makes me move forward. Alternatively, if I was a fan of someone's work and edited it for fun, that fun would've been my compensation. (That is why you still edit my books, Sarah, yes? That's why you haven't ditched me yet? I'm scared.) I'm cheap right now ($500 per manuscript, if you're interested, although at first I listed it as $1000 and there were no takers). Ramy has dared to hire me despite being my first client (You get a cookie, Ramy!), but nonetheless, I'm making real green money, and it's amazingly motivating.
5. You'll get faster and better as you get more familiar with the writer.
I used to tell people that your editor is like your spouse. You're in it for good and bad and everything in between. Now I see how true it is from the other side. The more I edit, the better feel I get for the story and the voice of the author, the more I GET it, the better I can edit it. Is that why writers stick to the same editors for years? I suppose I have just found out their secret.
What else? Well, the bitching aside, editing is actually fun! I didn't think I'd have a blast figuring out how to restructure a sentence to make it sound better without destroying it. I'd think and think and think, and it would come to me, and I'd do a little jump and a squeal and type it in. I suppose soon I'll get so good at this, I'll have to start charging you in solid gold. And then I'll get rich and invite you all to a huge party with vodka pools and dancing bears and fountains of borscht and naked Russian men in tutus serving caviar on silver platters, and then I'll eat myself sick and dive in a vodka pool and drown.