How good editing can make you a rock star*

There are two great loves in my life (aside from the usual things, like my husband, my children, and sour cream and onion Pringles). One is, fairly obviously, words. The other is music. I’ve been a musician since I was a child, I live with a musician, and I worked in a live music venue for 11 years. Music is in my bones.

What I love about music is how it has the power to change your mood, unlock your feelings and take you away to another place. Great books can do that too. And with both writing and music, that transformative finished product is often the result of a collaborative process that takes one person’s raw material and turns it into something polished, beautiful and truly special.

If your story is a song, your editor is your producer. They’re the George Martin to your Beatles, the Neptunes to your just-about-everyone-in-2002. They’re the ones who tweak knobs and push buttons, who tighten everything up and make it sparkle.

Great producers are those who understand and love music, and who can see straight to the heart of what the musician is trying to say. It’s their job to bring that to the fore, to clear out any noises getting in the way of that message. They know exactly where something needs a little more oomph, and where it needs to be stripped right back. They know when the second verse just isn’t really working. They know when to say, “I know you love that guitar solo, but it’s five times too long”.

Editors understand words. We know the technical bits, like how to avoid comma splices and what an intransitive verb is. But we also need a feel for style, and how to fine-tune prose so that it flows and sings.

And the best producers are the ones who don’t just stamp their own sound all over everything, but take the time to get to know and work with the artists’ own style. They’re there to enhance, not to take over. When you listen to Nevermind, you’re not listening to Butch Vig, you’re listening to Nirvana, which is the way it should be. A good editor should do that too. They should respect your voice, while at the same time doing all they can to show it off to its fullest potential.

So take some time to find the right editor for you. If you get it right, together you can create something wonderful.

*Metaphorically speaking. Please note that I cannot actually make you into a rock star. Sorry about that.




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