Through the years, I’ve been told I’m a pretty good editor. Occasionally I’m told that because of my eye for proper punctuation, spelling, and grammar; however, most of the time it’s because I provide honest, helpful advice and project myself to them as a friend instead of as their “Editor.”
Imagine with me for a moment that you are getting a paper worked on. Say you have some insecurities when it comes to your writing skill. You send this paper off to a stranger to get it edited. Now, in this situation, are you a tad apprehensive about what this editor is going to have to say about your writing? I was like that when I first got into writing, as I’m sure many are. You’re new to the craft. You’re feeling like a newborn platypus, thinking, “This editor is going to recognize I’m a new writer. They’re going to spot every flaw in this story and shoot it up so much that I’ll have nothing left when it gets back to me.” It can easily feel like that if an editor lays all the story’s faults out blunt on a writer. I’ve found the most helpful thing when correcting most writers’ paper is to add positive comments here and there.
A writer receiving a whole novel of needed corrections and pages full of broken parts of the story can easily feel as though the editor has attacked their piece, and even their worth as a writer. Adding in comments like, “I smiled here,” or, “So good! Don’t touch this part at all!” can really go far with showing the writer that you do appreciate their skill as a writer. Encouragement can help engender their trust in you.
So let’s say you don’t edit for a living. You don’t get paid for it. Why would it be worth it to you to go the extra mile and leave positive feedback on another writer’s work that you are editing? I’ve met people who don’t get this principle, and you know, it’s a sad picture. People who are negative in their feedback, who only deal out biting criticism, have a small group of fellow writers that are willing to go through their work with them. In essence, they ostracize themselves, forcing themselves into a position to be alone in the writing process, and you do not learn the writing craft nearly as well alone as you do with the help of others.
Being positive in your feedback on others’ work makes it more likely that they might return the favor to you some day. Everyone needs an editor. We’re humans; we skip over things in our own work. Having a larger pool of symbiotic editing relationships is only a helpful thing.