Why being an Editor is a bit like being a Nanny…

‘In a moment of mental abstraction for which I can never forgive myself, I deposited the manuscript in the basinette and placed the baby in the handbag.’

(Miss Prism, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde)

Keeping it in the family 

Poor old Jack Worthing. No wonder he was really Earnest. Who wouldn’t be rather serious, having been mistaken at a tender age for a three-volume novel of more than usually revolting sentimentality and ending up lost and found in the cloak room of Victoria Station? Luckily for most babies, literary or otherwise, not all nannies are as confused as Miss Prism! Take my grandmother, for instance. She too was a Nanny by profession, doggedly working her way up from lowly nursemaid to Supreme Ruler of the Universe. An exaggeration, perhaps? Depends on whose universe you’re talking about. By the time Nanna retired, she had nannied, amongst others, at least three generations of one family and each post-retirement visit was executed with all the pomp and ceremony of a returning monarch.

A passion for editing

So, what’s the point of my Nanna tale? Well, I believe there are a lot of similarities between being an editor and being a nanny.  Both involve caring for someone else’s precious offspring, helping them prepare to meet their public and be a credit to their proud parent(s). And like my grandmother, I love my job. I love nursing and nurturing my little wordy charges from terrible toddlerdom and unruly adolescence into blossoming maturity. I don’t mind if they’re prosaic or poetic, fictional or firmly grounded in reality, highfalutin or purely functional. I love dotting their i’s, minding their p’s and q’s, wiping their runny grammar and making sure they eat enough literary greens to promote healthy growth and development. All washed down with a generously heaped spoonful of care and attention.

But what exactly does an editor do? And how is it that some authors dedicate gushing acknowledgements to their editors, while others run away screaming at the very mention of the name? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out. So, why not join Book Nanny for an exploratory voyage through all such editorial conundrums? We’ll ask the questions and (hopefully) find some useful answers which will help to make the world of editors and editing a less scary place for all budding (and perhaps even a few seasoned) authors out there.

6 thoughts on “Why being an Editor is a bit like being a Nanny…

  1. Thanks, Joan, it was a pleasure to work on The Cinderella Complex and looking forward to hearing how its going. I hope you’ll find the blog useful and entertaining.

  2. It’s hard sometimes to take criticism of our work, even when it’s totally necessary. Like our children, we tend to see our manuscripts through rose-coloured spectacles, especially when we have worked long and hard on them.
    Most of us really do need that spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down, so thank you for being kind as well as outspoken with the structural edit you did for me on The Cinderella Reflex.
    Looking forward to reading your blog.

  3. Hi Bernadette – I’ve learned so much from you in the short time we’ve known each other. All the very best with this venture. x

  4. It was a pleasure, Carolann. Delighted to have been part of the process and to have helped you along the way. I’m very much looking forward to the book launch. Soon, I hope?

  5. I’m glad you looked after my precious offspring so well. Thank you for sending my manuscript on the road to success! It was in capable but caring hands… You may arrive at my book launch ‘with all the pomp and
    ceremony of a returning monarch!’

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