So I have this editing job. I haven't decided yet if it's a good idea to associate my writer persona with my editing persona, so I won't be linking to or mentioning the company by name in this post. I've learned some things that would benefit my author friends, so I thought I'd share in a vague, generic way.
First of all, it's not like a critique. In a critique you can say things like, "I can't follow the action in this scene," and then leave it up to the author to figure out why. That's perfectly acceptable, because as the critic you're doing the author a favor, and they'll take what you have to offer. As an editor, I have to figure out exactly what confuses me about the action, and then say that. Saying it is the hard part. If I do my job right, the solution will be obvious to the author, even if I haven't suggested a solution. Which ties in with my next point.
Editing is a balance of telling the author what to do and letting her decide how to do it. Except in the case of punctuation, where there is a right way and a wrong way, but even then if she feels strongly about leaving out a specific comma, that's ultimately her decision. I have to be very careful about rewriting anything. If I can't move around phrases she's already used to fix it, I leave a suggested fix in a comment, then she can either take my advice as is, change it another way, or tell me to take a flying leap. Although the last one on that list might be counter-productive, since I'm an impartial observer (or at least as impartial as anyone can be), and I'm only here to make her look better. Which leads to...
The editor is there to correct mistakes, no doubt. But among some authors there's this attitude of, "So I don't know how to punctuate a sentence correctly, that's what editors are for." Let me take a moment to point out I've not yet edited an author with this attitude, but I've seen it around in the blogosphere. But let me tell you something, dear authors, this attitude is stupid. STUPID. If my harsh words pull one author away from this abyss, they will be worth it. Not only is it good to know your craft inside and out for your craft's sake, but there's a practical purpose for knowing the nuts and bolts, and then putting them into practice BEFORE sending it to your editor.
If I have your manuscript for 20 days, and I spend the full 20 helping you polish your words, you are going to have one tight, well-written book. A tight, well-written book will increase your reputation, generate better word-of-mouth, ergo selling more books and creating more fans. However, if I have to spend seven of those days correcting hundreds or even thousands of typos which could easily have been found before the ms came to me, then you are getting only 13 days of word polishing. We might only have time for plot and eliminating confusion, and very little time for word choices and flow.
So those are the observations I have so far. I'm sure I'll have more as I go along, and maybe even change my mind about some of those up there. (Except for the last one. Since I basically called everyone who doesn't agree with me an idiot I'll have to stick by it. It's true anyway.) I'm getting the education of a lifetime, being on this side of things.