A personal bugbear rant


You pick up a hammer and a nail, and you pound that nail into a board. Are you a carpenter?

You make a toolbox in high school. Are you a carpenter now?

You make a bed frame. It doesn’t fall apart. How about now? Would you advertise as a carpenter? Would you charge people because your work is that amazing?

Not likely. Without studying the craft, without learning and years of figuring out how to make the best pieces, you wouldn’t dare charge someone for your services. Because you’d be offering them something amateur, something not as nearly as good as someone who has actually spent the years putting in the work and training. Sure, you can sell pieces here and there that are good enough; but would you call yourself a carpenter? Could you build someone’s kitchen, someone’s fence, and know your skill was up to that level?

And, just because you can put together something decent, does that mean you can then tell people you can teach them how to make amazing furniture and become carpenters themselves?

This is how I feel about editing.

It takes hard work and years of learning under a guide to become a good editor. It takes someone helping, someone showing you how it’s done and what to look for. It’s about developing yourself as a professional so that when you charge someone, you know what the hell you’re doing. It’s editing manuscripts, and then having an actual editor go over them to show you what you missed, or how you could have done it better. It’s having a teacher to show you how editing is done.

And liking to read, or liking to write, doesn’t mean you have the ability to help other people develop a story, their voice, or their grammatical structures. It takes training.

And going through the editing process doesn’t make you an editor, any more than being cooked a great meal makes you a chef.

I see plenty of people who have written a book, (or maybe a few), or who have just gotten an English degree, or who simply read a lot, who then feel they can call themselves editors. Like, I can put together a sentence, so now I can tell you how to write your story…

It doesn’t work that way. And people who don’t train, who offer to be people’s editors without putting in the training and years of work, are doing authors a disservice. And when they charge low rates, they make it that much harder for editors who charge the industry standard to make a living doing what they’ve trained to do.

Frankly, when people feel they can do your job without any training or background, it’s insulting and dispiriting. That may sound harsh, but to me, it’s true. I wouldn’t walk into your place of work, watch you for a few hours, file a few pieces of paper, and then decide I could do what you do, because how hard could it be? You’d be insulted too, I think.

If you want to be an editor, if you want to call yourself an editor, then train to be one. Get an apprenticeship, learn under someone, do the work. Don’t charge people for a few boards you’ve slapped together. It’s unfair to them, and it’s unfair to the profession.




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