The Editor’s Role

Editors have a bad rap. In the writing world, they’re often the stinky cheese in the refrigerator of fairness and creativity. But why?

During the editing process, it’s the editor’s job to tweak content in multiple ways. He first checks that everything is relevant to the topic and that the flow of the content makes sense. Then he starts making cuts or additions, trying to improve the amount of information or make the content more real to the reader. The final step is to check that everything is okay in terms of grammar, spelling and formatting. These steps often drastically improve a draft.

The trouble is, a writer takes writing personally. He gets attached to his creations, viewing them as little children who grow, develop and finally make their way into the world. When an editor starts fiddling with the content, the writer’s initial reaction is to wince rather than give thanks. It’s as if the editor is telling him he’s been a bad parent, as if all his careful effort still created one penny short of a dollar.

So the writer does what is natural. He shifts blame from himself to the editor, because it is only then that he can keep his self-developed illusion about his own mastery of his craft. The editor becomes the villain, and in the worst case scenario, the writer can’t help but argue with the editorial decisions as a means of defending his own ego.

The reality is, editors aren’t out for blood. They don’t purposely look for things to pick apart, and they certainly don’t like arguing with the writers with whom they work. They’d give their left kidney for a pool of clients who truly realized how much they want the writers to succeed.

So what does this mean for a writer? It means that, to really get good, collaborative effort going, to hone a text to the finest it can ever be, there has to be at least a little emotional distance from the writing so the editor doesn’t become the enemy. It is this distance that keeps the writer’s mind open to new possibilities, that lets him rationalize about what to do next and what writing path ultimately is best.

 

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