The second topic on which I spoke as a panelist at Marscon was “Editing for your Spouse/Partner/BFF/Pet”, during which we shared many great points with hopeful authors.
If your friend, or any of the above, has asked you to edit some work of theirs, bask in the complimentary glow for only a moment. Then, get serious with them. Because there are several different kinds of editors in the industry and you need to know what exactly they’re looking for with their request.
Do they want you to proofread for grammar and spelling? This is a technical editor role. In this role you should scrutinize their work for errors that their word processor didn’t catch; and, perhaps more importantly, for errors it THINKS it caught. Words can be spelled correctly but be grammatically out of place, and their favorite program will generally miss these mistakes. BE CAREFUL in this role. If someone close to you is asking you to proofread, you probably hear their voice frequently. This familiarity can cause you to gloss over errors that you would otherwise pick on immediately from a stranger. Distance your eye and ear: I recommend you read things aloud just to make sure you’re not accidentally skipping over mistakes or subconsciously sliding over grammar gaps.
Do they want you to check for continuity? Is there a character that they want you to scan for realism? A section of dialogue that just isn’t working right? This is a content editor role. Your job here is NOT to read their draft and hand it back with a big smile and a useless “I like it!” They’re coming to you for feedback, and unfortunately that does mean there will be something to improve on because deep down they are not 100% satisfied with the draft. Begin your feedback positively, for sure; but make certain you identify the thing that’s troubling them, otherwise you’ve done them no service.
A big thing to remember is that, while we often prefer to write alone, we do not write in a vacuum. If someone asks you to edit for them, remember their request and ask it of them when you need that second pair of eyes. After all, full-time professional editors GET PAID to do what they’ve asked of you for free. They’d better be ready to return the favor.