Skip directly to content

Let the Write One In

on Tue, 11/01/2016 - 17:54

By Robin Baskerville

With tens of thousands of word choices in a novel, it’s not a matter of if you will make a mistake, but how many and how egregious the lapses will be. Writing is a solitary pursuit, but if you want your writing to be read and understood as intended, an editor is essential.

Over my career, I have made as many mistakes as a writer as I have caught as an editor, and I refuse to let any of my work be published without first being seen by another set of eyes. I’d love to share a juicy story about some incredibly embarrassing double entendre that nearly slipped through, but while I’m sure it’s happened, I seem to have successfully blocked it from my memory. What I do remember, of course, are successes as an editor, once catching a missing letter “l” from the word public—a disaster that spellcheck wouldn’t avert.

I’ve also picked up a passel of writing hacks along the way. Two of my favorites? Changing the font on a document or reading a document backwards to make hidden mistakes jump out. (Warning: That last one works best in small doses unless you want a large headache.)

I started my adult life looking for misplaced money instead of misplaced modifiers. Words had always come a bit easier for me than numbers, and I made money on my first short piece of fiction, winning $15 in a writing contest held by our high school newspaper. I believed it was easier to graduate with a paying job if I pursued numbers, so I earned my degree in accounting. Fast forward a few years, and I was able to make the switch from auditing to journalism—both careers require the ability to interview people under stressful circumstances, gather facts and present a story of what happened. When I’m not editing, I am writing fiction once again. My varied background brings a unique viewpoint to my role as editor.

Over the years, my work experiences from proofreading the annual report of a Fortune 500 company to writing regional news stories to evaluating fiction manuscripts have added to my love of the craft of writing and my admiration for the people who ply that craft. Love of writing and a respect for writers are two foundations of a good editor, but there are varied paths to becoming one. My path has created the writer and editor I am today.

The right person is out there to help you achieve your writing goals, but all editors are not created equally, and that’s a good thing. Take the time to find the right person for you. Your writing, and your writing career, will be stronger for it.

Robin Baskerville is the owner of Baskerville Editing and creator of the Working with an Editor workshop. She is a former magazine editor and newspaper reporter. She can be contacted through RobinBaskerville.com. Her short story, “Obit Desk,” is in Plaidswede Publishing’s anthology, “Murder Ink. Vol. 2,” part of the New Hampshire Pulp Fiction series, due out February, 2017.