This week I was finishing up a contract editing job for a client. The assignment was copy editing, but as I was going through, I kept noticing story problems. plot holes, issues with consistency in perspective (things moving the story along that weren’t knowledge of the POV character).
It was not my job to fix these things. I’d been hired to correct grammar, punctuation, spelling and word choice errors. Correcting the story’s structure is the job of a developmental editor. Such errors cannot always be fixed by a change in word choice because it involves fixing things in multiple parts of the story. When I do developmental editing, I host consultation sessions between the author and myself where we discuss the fixes, what’s needed in a new scene, or how to rewrite the existing scenes. I love Google Docs for this.
When I do copy editing, I often will add a comment and cite the rule or explain the grammatical point being fixed by the edits. Definitely if an error is common, a writer’s “bad habit” as it were, I will go into comments at length and discuss how to think about the story, paragraph, or sentence purpose and avoid the pitfall in the first place.
It made me realize that I’m not just an editor. My instinct is to teach, to improve the writer’s skill for the next story, to offer not only the correction but the reasons behind the corrections. An edited document from me is full of “teachable moments.”
In a writer’s group on Facebook, I find I’m teaching in our bi-weekly chats about point of view, series, scenes, conflict, or character development.
I use examples from stories I’ve read or written. I use examples made up on the spot. I answer questions with more examples, or draw out examples from the others and make them part of the clarification. I am complimented afterward with “I learned so much!”
Perhaps this can be a way to individualize and teach writing online. How many of you would pay for a live one-on-one session with a “teaching editor”? You’d bring a short story or a scene you’re working on and I’d teach you and answer your questions as I edited it?
Leave your thoughts in the comments. Also, if you’d like to “test” my editing skills and see the kinds of corrections and comments I’d make, review my services and contact me to arrange a sample edit of one complete scene – up to 1500 words.