What Do Editors and Fairy Godmothers Have in Common?
Why I love my job as an editor, and how you can benefit from a great one.
Words (and the books and stories they live in and tell) have always been a big part of my life. I was always destined to be an English major—I was good at history, decent at art, okay at science, and abysmal at math—but was truly great with words. So great, in fact, that when I got in trouble as a kid, I didn’t lose dessert or TV privileges. Nope, I had my books (and library card) confiscated. Cruel and unusual punishment? I’m still inclined to say yes...but now I know I probably deserved it. Still, it only made me crave books and stories more.
As I got older, I sought to cultivate an editor’s brain. What does an editor do? They make things better. Well, the good ones do, anyway. And my brain loved it. It was like a game—what would take [insert medium of your choice] to the next level? Every book I read, or show and movie I watched, hell, even restaurant menus were fair game: if only the creators had just tightened up this wording, that last chapter would have been more impactful...if only they had smoothed out the sequence of events, the plot wouldn’t be so muddled...hey, I’m pretty sure they managed to spell every item in bacon, eggs, and cheese wrong here.
In my experience, there are certain requirements that come with the job: a love of reading, a natural inclination (dare I say passion?) for language, an appreciation for challenges, and above all else, the desire to turn something into the best possible version of itself. These traits are all things an editor brings to the table—and are what help make them ideal companions to subject matter experts (aka SMEs).
Subject matter experts, as their title suggests, are the experts on their chosen topic. They bring the knowledge and their own passion for the subject. They have all the raw materials—and I get to be like their fairy godmother, transforming it into something magical.
For myself, there’s no greater rush than helping a SME find the perfect words to convey their point, or reorganizing and structuring their information so that it flows beautifully from point A to point B, or tailoring the tone so that their audience will better engage with their content. Effectiveness, clarity, cohesion, comprehension, voice, tone, style, audience (and so on) are all pieces to a puzzle we get to solve together. And trust me, I love puzzles.
It’s this excitement that keeps me invested as an editor, no matter the subject. So the next time you’re developing your passion project, bring a professional editor on board—I promise you that I’m here to help (and maybe have a little fun on the side, too).