Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Who Edits the Editor?

with 4 comments

As I wanted to talk about editing today — especially since I’ve been doing a great deal of it over the past few weeks (thus almost no blogs) — I figured a catchy title might lure you in. (Did it work?)

Anyway, the question of “who edits for you, Barb?” has come up among my devoted readership. And as the answer is complicated**, I thought I could maybe make a blog out of this, remind you all I’m still alive and kicking, and help give you some idea of what I go through when I talk with my editor(s).

I am fortunate to have two very good mentors. Both are excellent editors in their own right. They are so good, that when I feel overloaded, I tell people to please check with them. (As they are both in high demand themselves, I am not going to name them. But trust me: they exist, and they’re damned good.)

Now, because I haven’t had anything ready to go for over a year, I mostly have just talked with my mentors over this when they have been able to come up for air. I trust them, I trust their judgment, and I believe them when they say something needs to be cut, something needs to be added, and/or something needs to be changed.

Because I can speak frankly with them, I try to offer the same level of frankness to my editorial clients. I want those who deal with me to know they can trust me, and my judgment, and be able to bounce ideas off me if they’re in distress…or even if they aren’t, and just want to chat about stories with someone they know who “gets it.”

But frankness does not necessarily equal bluntness. (Trust me, though; I can be quite blunt, when need be.) It does mean I try to give praise as well as criticism, and I hope my critiques are constructive rather than destructive. And it also means that I do my best to let my clients know I understand their stories, and what they’re going for; if I didn’t, how could I possibly do any good for them?

My view, as an editor, is to help my clients refine and improve their own work. I want them to sound like the very best versions of their writing style, in order to bring out all the specialness and sense of wonder they have in their own creation, while polishing up the various rough edges as much as I can without taking the freshness/uniqueness of their viewpoints out.

And what I look for in an editor, and have been privileged to find it with two wonderful editors who happen to be my friends, boils down to this:

  1. How well do they communicate?
  2. How well do they understand what I’m doing?
  3. How can they best help me help myself?

Ultimately, it all comes down to trust. Without trust, there is no communication; without trust, there is no understanding; without trust, there is no willingness to work together to find better solutions.

So I urge you, when looking for an editor, to find someone you can trust who has the skills you need in order to help you polish your work to its utmost.

And if you, like me, manage to find a good friend in your editor(s), so much the better.


**As I said, the answer is a bit complicated. I, myself, can look at something if I’ve had some time in between me writing it and me going to edit it and get the ball rolling. But unless time is pressing and my editor-friends are unavailable, I am going to ask one or both of them to help me every single time. Because I’m not stupid; I know I tend to see what I think is there, rather than what actually is.

And I do this for the same reason everyone else does. I have it set in my head that I wrote X, which means I’ll only see X. But I might actually have Y, Z, AA, BB, CC, DD, or something totally incomprehensible…which is why I, too, need editing. (You expected me to say anything else?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 4, 2020 at 5:39 am

4 Responses

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  1. Now this is a post I can truly relate to because I do the same thing. Yesterday in self-editing a passage, I discovered that where I clearly meant “there” I had written “heir.” Possibly I didn’t hit the T quite right and it would have come out “their” but who knows? However, I had read that passage at least 5-6 times before. I had seen “there” every time. I always self-edit before I send my material to you. Invariably, I get it back with little things like that which I had missed completely. We can’t expect to edit ourselves as effectively as others edit us. These are different animals.
    Here’s a question I’ve gotten. What if you lay out money for an editor, but your book doesn’t make enough to pay it back? First off, that’s sad, but it can happen. But the point is not to hire an editor so you can make enough money to recoup the expense. The point of hiring an editor is to improve your work and build a reputation as a good writer. Maybe you don’t make the money back with the first few books, or on one particular book. That doesn’t matter. The reason to hire an editor is to send out the best book possible and wow your readers with how well you spin a tale. For that, a good editor is worth her/his/their weight in proverbial gold.
    Which is why I send all my books to YOU.

    Kayelle Allen

    December 4, 2020 at 7:30 am

    • Bless you, Kayelle, and thanks. 🙂

      And I agree: we have editors in order to make our work the best it can be. 🙂

      Barb Caffrey

      December 4, 2020 at 1:30 pm

  2. I do think it’s a good thing to have other people look at your stuff… I know from my days of writing (a LOT) that when your eyes are tired, your brain is wiped out, you know what you’re saying, but will anybody else? It’s good to have people who not only know what you’re trying to say, but to actually do well for you by making sure it’s sounding okay.


    December 8, 2020 at 7:03 pm

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