So, I had a few different angles I considered taking on this. Do I talk about my editing process? I considered that, but that's largely only useful to you if you think my nuts-and-bolts method is something you can use. Do I talk about the value of beta-readers & editors and getting other eyes and opinions? I could, but you know that. Or, rather, if you're looking for writing advice of any kind, you've already seen that, and have absorbed it, or it's bounced off you and nothing I say will change your opinion on the subject.
Instead, let's talk about specific editors. Namely, my editor, Sheila Gilbert, who I adore. She won the Hugo for Best Editor Long Form last year, and she's nominated again this year. Now, you may say to yourself, "Hey, she won last year, should she really win again this year?" I say: hell yes. And that sort of thing is hardly unprecedented. Heck, in the history of the Best Editor Award, before it was split into Long and Short, over thirty years there were only nine different winners. NINE. And after it was split, Patrick Nielsen Hayden won three times, and David Hartwell won twice in a row. So there's plenty of precedent for Sheila to win twice, and she totally should.
Now, you're going to ask me, why should she, Marshall? What does she do that puts her above the rest of the crowd? (The rest of the crowd is 80% excellent, of course.)
The obvious answer is, she publishes my books. This makes me biased, certainly, but it's an important point from my point of view. But you want something a bit less subjective.
So, let me put something else on the table, in terms of What Editors Do, since it often seems so very nebulous. I often go to conventions, meet other authors, do the barcon thing, and so on. There's a lot of in-the-trenches horror stories. Stories about editors butchering manuscripts, demanding changes that would fundamentally alter the story. Stories about copy-edits that went outside of the bounds of the copy-edit. Stories about horrendous covers that the author got stuck with, deeply unhappy with how their books were going to look.
These horror stories are part-and-parcel with the industry. I've heard them from big names and midlisters and newbies.
And I don't have one.
I do not have one of those editorial horror stories, and that's because Sheila has been there to keep me from having them. Even when I've had cover art come in with problems, she's right with me saying, "Yes, let's fix this." That's what makes someone a Best Editor, in my book. All five books, in fact, with the sixth, seventh and eighth on the way.
(Speaking of, I have editing to do on that eighth one. Off to it...)