Just yesterday gabby2600
were chatting about how hard it is to find good editors and here I am today thinking I'm really lucky I have several. Case in point, yesterday I finished off a new story and after asking madame_mercredi
if she was willing, sent it off to her for beta reading.
I was pretty happy with the story and when finished it and thought she wouldn't have a lot of changes to suggest... but then within a couple seconds after I sent it, I started to get this nagging thought that there was something missing with the story -- chiefly, a real climax*. This feeling got stronger all night, like I had made a big goof and there was a hole where the climax was supposed to be.
As it turns out, it was more than just that problem that needs improvement -- and I know this thanks to Mercredi, who able to get back with me this afternoon and have a chat to discuss it. It was really amazing all the things she was able to point out to me that either didn't quite work or needed improvement or were missing altogether. In most cases it was things that had crossed my mind but hadn't acted on. In some cases there were issues that hadn't even occured to me, almost like blind spots I guess.
This goes back to my main point, which that I'm really lucky I have people like Mercredi and a couple of others who I can really rely on to help me out if I'm not feeling sure about something I've written. **Hugs to those people!**
I feel like the job of a good editor or beta reader, beyond just booboo-catching (spelling, grammar, continuity, etc.), is the willingness to actually challenge the author. A good editor is one who is confident enough to really share their opinion and even make suggestions for how they might do it or a missing scene or something. Not just "This is good" and "I don't understand this."
I think an editor has to think about the story more than the average reader and in some ways, more than the actual writer, who can be prone to being less than objective at times.
Many times I do things in stories arbitrarily, because it was the first thing I thought of or easier to write -- although it might not be the most "in character" choice of action or there might be a better scene if the plot were different.
Now a bad editor would simply read that bad idea and jump over it without making any real comment. Either they don't actually think about the story enough to notice a problem or they just don't bother comment on "non-obvious" content issues.
A good editor will question it and challenge the author by saying "Why does this happen?" or "That doesn't sound plausible..." or "Why don't you try...?" When a writer has that feedback from a good editor, 9 times of of 10 the writer will get such comments and say "Oh, yes, of COURSE!" or "That bothered me too." But if they have a bad editor, they might never realize the problem.
And I'm not saying a writer should put all the responsibility on their editor, but I do think that having a good editor (or more than one) really forces you to go beyond yourself, your POV, your blindspots, etc., and really make the story what it has the potential to be.
Anyway, I'm really happy I got so many good ideas from Mercredi and hopefully this week I'll find time to do all the edits and several expansions this story is going to need.* Note to Wraeththu fans: Amusingly, this is actually a double-entendre since the scene I skipped over was an aruna scene. I don't know when I've ever skipped over that but in this one, I did. At the time I was writing it seemed all right to describe parts of it in flashback, but Merc pointed out to me that there are all kinds of issues that probably would be present in that scene and make the story have a "punch" it's missing, i.e. climax.