A new perspective on editing
Oct 13, 2014
Writing is hard work. Having the discipline to sit down, day after day, and write a story that potentially few people may ever read takes a particular type of person. These people (we’ll call them writers) feel an indestructible compulsion to express themselves, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to get their words down on paper. Writers tend to sacrifice a lot: time with loved ones, social lives, vacations, financial gain, etc. After all, real life doesn’t just stand idly by when inspiration strikes. No, children still have to be picked up from school and bills still must be paid regardless of how amazing it is to finally figure out what should happen in chapter seven.
It only makes sense that after the exertion of getting the story precisely right, some writers bristle at the idea of some Johnny-come-lately editor telling them to change anything about their story. For writers, after the hard-won victory of reaching the finish line, the editing process can sometimes seem like the race has been extended with some hurdles thrown in for good measure. However, good editors won’t just stand at the sidelines and watch their writers struggle unaided. Good editors will run alongside their writers, offering encouragement and helpful suggestions that, if heeded, will improve results. Here are a few things for writers (and editors) to remember about the editing process:
- It’s a collaboration. Editors should respect the effort that writers have exerted in completing their manuscripts. Writers should respect the time and thought that editors have put into reading those manuscripts and offering comments and corrections.
- It’s not personal. Editors are not sadistic pedants who delight in humiliating writers over misplaced commas or misspelled words. Editors do not secretly think that writers who make errors are stupid. Their comments, suggestions, and corrections are directed at the manuscript. The manuscript has no ego, although editors and writers do.
- It’s beneficial. As frustrating as it can be, the editing process benefits writers by offering them a preview of their readers’ reactions. An editor straddles the divide between writers and their audiences. Editors possess the valuable perspective of understanding a writer’s intent (because they work directly with the writer) and understanding a reader’s interpretation of what was written (because they are an audience).
- It’s a conversation. An editor is not a god who wields an infallible red pen. Further, editors do not dictate to writers—they ask questions and make suggestions. The editing process is not something inflicted upon the writer. Writers should engage their editors and participate in the discussion. Editors should be able to explain why their suggestions should be implemented.
With the right perspective, writers can embrace the editing process as the gentle helping hand that it actually is.