Editors wear a lot of hats. Depending on our skill set, we can be known as developmental editors, writing coaches, substantive editors, copy editors, and proofreaders (plus cheerleaders and occasionally therapists).
But our primary role is guardian of the reader-writer relationship.
The editor helps the writer establish trust with the reader. Once the reader trusts the writer, the writer can take them anywhere. So the central question I always ask as an editor is: “Do I believe this writer?”
Note: The question is not “Is this true?”
Truth can get in the way of a good story.
There are two main ways:
1/ When you overwhelm the reader with facts. No one wants to read a guidebook, unless you’re already lost.
2/ When the truth of a situation is not nearly as interesting as what might have happened. Your job is to make the truth more interesting.
What’s most believable can be what sets a story apart. It becomes a story that only you could tell.