“Do you have any tips to share about being an editor? Any books to read or things you wish you knew when you started?”
A friend and fellow writer recently sent me these questions. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked about how someone can develop an editorial eye and make strides in this elusive, but important skill-set. I figure some of you might have similar questions, so here’s my attempt at an answer!
Let me preface by saying two things:
I didn’t study writing or English in college. What you’ll find in this article, then, isn’t lessons from a classroom, but those learned through work-related experience and diving in headfirst. I don’t pretend to have a refined knowledge of all-things-grammar and technical aspects of writing, nor do I have all the answers! These are simply reflections.
I’m writing this also for writers. Good writers are skilled self-editors, and good writers keep their editors in mind as they write. It’s a beautiful gift when a writer submits an article to Unlocking the Bible, and it’s mostly done. Growth in the skill of self-editing will greatly bless the editor who receives your submission!
Without further ado:
Lesson #1: Editing isn’t taught, it’s caught.
I can’t take credit for this brilliant statement. My co-worker and editor extraordinaire, Tim Augustyn, first said it. I was training my first co-editor and asked Tim for advice. He said, “Editing isn’t taught––it’s caught.”
By this, I don’t think Tim meant there’s no possibility of learning the editorial skill-set through books or courses; rather, we learn best by watching, analyzing, and doing. Just as an apprentice would learn by studying his master as he worked, so we learn editing in a similar way:
- When we’re reading great books, we observe and analyze voicing, word choice, argument-flow, and the rhythm of sentences.
- When we’re being edited, we study what our editor is doing and learn from their suggestions and decisions, and even by the way they communicate.
- When a writer reasonably pushes back on our work, we’re learning how to become better editors.