I’ve wanted to be an editor since I was a kid, but admittedly I didn’t know exactly what an editor did. Today I’ll talk about what an editor’s job is like, and what I’ve learned so far from my experiences. If you’re an aspiring writer, this info is helpful for knowing what happens to your work when you submit it.
One thing to keep in mind is that I’m talking specifically about editing for a literary magazine. Editors work in all sorts of fields, and their tasks can vary depending on what that field is or their position. The tasks of an editor for a book publishing company vary from a literary magazine’s editor, and so on. Even some magazines will differ in the editing process. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get started.
Editors Proofread Grammar Mistakes…Last
Yes, the classic assumption of editors is true. Fixing grammar mistakes is common and necessary, but only within the boundaries of style. An editor generally won’t edit minor mistakes if it flows with the style of the piece. Of course, by minor mistakes I don’t mean typos. But a writer could get away with some syntactical mistakes or otherwise unacceptable word choices. I plan to make a separate post about standard grammar vs. style soon.
Proofreading for grammar issues is generally saved right before the final copy is sent to the printer.
Do Editors Totally Change the Original Story?
The answer to this question isn’t universal, unfortunately. For many magazines, editors make it a point to keep the original story intact. If they don’t like the way the original submission is written they simply won’t accept the submission. This is especially if it requires a significant amount of rewriting and revising.
Some editors for other magazines are more willing to heavily rewrite. But it’s often daunting for the editors to rewrite and restructure the story. It also raises concerns of artistic freedom vs. editorial control. If an author intended the short story to convey a certain message, an editor’s revision could possibly destroy this artistic choice.
Here’s a general rule for my fellow writers out there. Submit your work’s best, final version. Generally, editors will select the more completed submission over one that may require a lot of revision.
Editors aren’t as intimidating as they may seem! Check out Rafter’s article about 7 secrets every writer needs to know about editors.
Does One Person Do Everything?
Each editor has specific responsibilities, and often the same job is done by more than one editor collaboratively. This reduces the margin of error, and editors can approach submissions from multiple perspectives.
For the magazine, we have at least two editors reviewing fiction submissions. There’s also at least two editors reviewing poetry submissions. Another editor works on formatting and layout, while he and the editor-in-chief work together on revising.
Editors have other tasks, but these are some of the major responsibilities. But I hope this post answered some concerns writers have about editors.
If you want to read more about what an editor does, from an editor’s perspective, I recommend reading the excellent article on Crazy Industry.
Do you have your own experience with editors? I’d love to read about it, so please send me a message or leave a comment!