After editing a review for over five years and guest-editing a few others, after screening numerous contests, after acting as an associate editor for an anthology, I have taped together a few editorial philosophies:
An editor should be the clearest glass that an author’s work passes through. If we are fingerprint-smudged, if we imprint or impose ourselves too strongly on a piece, the light will never shine as strongly, or feel as warm.
An editor should be able to speak confidently and effectively about craft. Related: an editor should be able to speak confidently about misreading a text, making mistakes, and being human.
An editor, of course, is first and foremost a reader. As such they should feel comfortable learning something new from an author.
An editor is not the one standing on the medal podium. An editor is not even the medal being awarded, being raised to a cheering audience. An editor is the podium hoisting up the writer and their work to the highest point we ourselves can elevate them.
If an editor must make edits, it should be to take the piece further away from the editor’s voice and deeper into the author’s voice.
An editor is necessary and unnecessary, always.
An editor must be able to peel layer after layer of a text but never fully be sure if the skin beneath will be rose petal or onion.