5 Things My Kids Taught Me About Editing

Introducing our brand-new editor’s column-—check back every month for a message from a Harlequin editor!

By Adrienne Macintosh

When I started my journey as a Harlequin editor in 2005, I knew I had a lot to learn. And, luckily, I was surrounded by amazing teachers. Women who’d been in the business for years, and in some cases decades. But the people who’ve taught me in the most profound way are my kids. I’m still early in the journey, to be sure! My oldest daughter is only four and my youngest daughter is a year and a half. But I thought I’d share five things I’ve learned through them, and how I take those into my work as an editor, and life in general.

1. It takes a village

One thing the pandemic made clear is that trying to parent in isolation is stressful. Attempting to be everything for my kids—cook, teacher, friend, entertainer, public health official (Don’t touch that! No, don’t eat it!)—is just not possible. And it’s ok to ask for help.

That’s true for editors (and authors!) too. When I first started editing, I would sometimes make more than one pass at a manuscript in an effort to try and catch everything. And yes, I definitely found more mistakes (mostly my own)! But the same adage works in editing as it does in parenting—it takes a village. Our authors, copyeditors and proofreaders are amazing at their jobs. And I can trust them to do it. Plus, even if we all miss something, that’s ok too. Which brings me to my next lesson…

2. It’s not about perfection

I haven’t been a parent for long, but boy is it a crash course in humility. Just when I think I’ve got a routine figured out, the kid changes. And just because it worked on one kid does not mean it works on the other. (Which is darn annoying!) Not to mention the helpful friend or neighbor who swears that her kid eats everything, never has a meltdown and learned to read before she was out of kindergarten.

A manuscript is like this in a lot of ways—what worked for some stories, for whatever reason, doesn’t work for others. But not every book is going to be perfect. Editors and authors only have so much time, so much effort. And then we’ve got to…

3. Let it go!

Hey, I’ve got a four-year-old, this song had to appear in this post somewhere!

But turns out it’s not a bad lesson—sometimes I have to just let it go. I can’t die on every hill. And that’s as true in editing as it is in parenting. Plus, our authors are awesome and talented people, and I remind myself to trust them and their readers. Because ultimately…

4. It’s their story

As a parent, this one is hard sometimes. When my kids were born, I didn’t even realize the powerful narratives I already imagined for how their lives were going to go. But I don’t write my kids’ stories any more than I write our authors’. And while I can help and guide, I can’t fix everything.

This is something I try to remind myself every day, both with my kids and my authors. It’s their story. And besides, romance is supposed to be a feel-good experience. I’m not sure people would say the same about the editing process, but editors don’t have to take the fun out of everything!

5. Focus on the golden sunshine

In March of 2020 when everyone in Toronto went into lockdown for the first time, I had a six-month-old baby who’d decided it was the perfect time to crawl and a very social three-year-old who was suddenly with me all the time. I had to get them outside! Luckily spring was around the corner, and we all delighted in finding signs of it—from the first brave crocuses, to the bold irises, to the bright daffodils. My daughter called the daffodils “golden sunshine” flowers (she was in Tangled phase), and I found that a very apt moniker! It was a challenging time, for sure, but it also had its moments of wonder.

In editing, every story has its “golden sunshine” moments. That bit of dialogue that makes me laugh, the touching scene that makes me cry, the plot point that blows me away. And in those moments—both in life and in editing—I am reminded how very lucky I am.