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December 2018: What qualities make a good editor?

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​​People often assume that an editor's main attribute is a predatory instinct for pouncing on other people's errors. Okay, there may be some truth to that. But really, I'm more like a gardener than a hunter. My goal is just to root out any weeds, deadwood and crud that choke the vitality of your writing.


Over the quarter-century I've been working on people's stories, I've come to believe that these are the most vital qualities of a good fiction editor.


  • A real passion for storytelling, formed by being a lifelong reader. I know the difference between good writing and bad writing – and I know how to make yours better.

  • The imagination to visualize how a story might be improved. Great editors (like me) see not just what IS on the page, but also what’s NOT there. I point out things you might have overlooked—and this can often be the catalyst for ideas you never knew you had.

  • The language skills to notice and fix any errors and inconsistencies, and to make your text more actively engaging to your readers.

  • Adeptness at both the macro and micro tasks of editing. I focus on the bigger picture of your story, and also on all the little details that make for a satisfying reading experience.

  • An instinct for mentoring: I act as your writing coach and cheerleader, teaching you how to be a “self-correcting” author. I point out any ongoing bad habits I notice, so you can fix them yourself in future.

  • I'm simpatico: most authors, whether they're successful or beginners, have fragile egos. Any criticism I offer is always constructive.

  • I have degrees in English Literature and Journalism; I've worked for several newspapers and magazines; and I've been a longtime member of the national professional body, now Editors Canada.

  • Finally, I'm quick and efficient in my work. Most authors aren’t made of money, so I do what I can to help you stretch your editing budget.


If you can tell me any other characteristics you look for in an editor, I'd love to hear from you! Email your comments to

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