Can an editor read for pleasure?


I hear this question quite a bit.

I have been asked it by students of a short course I teach and I’ve heard it at a number of workshops and talks I’ve attended. It was asked at the end of an excellent weekend workshop on fiction editing run by Text Publishing’s Mandy Brett. Mandy’s answer was sort of a no: she loves literature but she finds it a bit too much like work.

This makes sense for an editor working in house, they have to read a LOT of submissions. But as a freelance editor my answer to my students is yes.

Reading has always been one of my greatest pleasures, now that I am an editor it doubles as professional development. Lucky me.

I read widely, knowing everything I read improves my craft. I mix it up, from debut novels to classics, short stories to long-form journalism. Reading a writer at the height of their powers, such as Anne Enright with The Green Road or Roger Smith with Mr Darwin’s Shooter (two recent standout reads for me) teaches me so much about the possibilities of story and prose. Sometimes I go back to their earlier novels to see how their writing has developed. By contrast, if I’m reading a book that I feel is underdeveloped in some way, I let myself imagine what I would suggest if I were the editor. I have been known to read with a pencil, marking up a few copyedits on the way. This might sound like work (and possibly a bit nerdy) but to me its all pleasure.


PS. Here’s a bit more about those two novels I mentioned. Quite long, but who knows? You dear reader may well be in the mood for a long read.

Guardian Review Ann Enright’s The Green Road

An essay by Roger McDonald on writing Mr Darwin’s Shooter – a great read for anyone interested in or writing historical fiction (I’ve learned a little more on reading it).