I love to edit. I love getting first dibs on a friend's story and figuring out what tools the author could use to shape the story to match their vision.
But there isn't a lot of guidance on the internet on how to be a good editor. There are plenty on self-editing, writing, how to be a good alpha or beta reader, how to find a good editor, and dealing with requested revisions and edits, but not much on the process of editing someone else's work.
It seems like this is a skill and knowledge set that is generally passed on through an apprenticeship (as an intern to an editor or agent) or by evaluating edits that you, as a writer, have received. I don't have access to either. I have a full time job that I love, and this is what I do in my fun time. I want to make sure that I am conveying my responses in a helpful way for the writer.
When you edit for flow, character, story arc, big picture elements, how do you convey your responses to the writer? A revision letter? Comments on the manuscript? Both? Do you do line edits at the same time, or wait until the big revisions are complete? Are there elements you emphasize over another?
I realize "How do you edit?" is almost as ambiguous a question as "How do you write?" But there are hundreds of people who share how they write and self-edit, letting budding writers pick and choose the tricks and processes that will work for them. I'd love to see the same for budding editors.
The first time I saw an honest to goodness real edit letter I realized to my marrow I was not an editor. I am a reader, a fact-checker, a cheerleader, and I hope a good agent, but man oh many I am not a real editor.
You're right. It's a learned skill. The agents I know who started out as editors (Betsy Lerner primarily) talk about reading the editorial letters their bosses sent to see how editing happened.
I send editorial letters and a marked up manuscript.
I send big picture, get all the pieces in place notes first and then go through line by line.
But, every good editor finds their own way. It sounds like you've got the one thing a good editor needs: a passion for the job.
Listen to what people tell you about your edits, and watch what other people do. I don't think there's a right or a wrong way to edit. I think there is what works to get the project the best it can be.
Some of my clients deliver manuscripts that can go directly to the editor.
Some of them need only a spell check.
Some of them need a fact check.
And some of them need a reality check. Those are the calls we all dread, but every one of my clients who's gotten a call like that has sucked it up, and done the work. There's a reason we call them Fabulous and that's one of them.
If any of our blog readers have links to sites about editing/editors that they think are useful/helpful/entertaining, let me know.