“…the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”
There are good writers and there are good editors.
Occasionally there are good writers who are also good editors, but in general, and speaking from experience, a lot of good writers are not good editors.
This is Dave, with a few thoughts about writing and editing. A fellow author once described writers as often clinging to their written words as if each was a precious child. Stephen King, in his memoir on writing, eloquently stated, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” I wish I had heard these analogies years earlier when my first novels were being edited. My skin was salamander thin at the time. I simply could not believe that my editor was shredding my work. In truth, she wasn’t shredding it at all but was, in fact, cutting loose the many illegitimate children peppered throughout my manuscript. In hindsight I recognize the value she brought to the work. It was not so much shredding as it was refining, strengthening, and unifying the work. The editor was Dianne Pearce, and I owe her a debt to this day for having done such a stellar job of making me look a lot better than I was.
I learned a lot from Di’s editing acumen and, having worked in a largely editorial capacity for the past five years, have come to the realization that great stories are built upon well-crafted writing blended with solid editorial input. Editing is a difficult beast to characterize beyond the basics of grammar and punctuation. There is a certain intuitiveness that comes with the job. I’m not sure how else to explain it.
The best advice I can give authors is to trust your editor’s judgement. You can certainly disagree, of course, but it helps, I think, to review your edits with an understanding that your editor is not seeking to rewrite or coopt your work. Rather, they are reviewing it with objectivity. If you consider the manuscript the writer’s baby, then your editor should be considered a caregiver who only has the best intentions in mind for your child. There are exceptions, of course. I’ve heard firsthand tales of editors who have revised authors so heavily that the source material became unrecognizable. Micromanaging a manuscript is as toxic as micromanaging an employee, and it should be fairly easy to identity and avoid engaging with these types of individuals.
I’ve lost count of the number of short stories I’ve edited. There have been many. The overwhelming majority have been great experiences. In total, I’ve had one author disagree with my edits to the point that he withdrew his manuscript from its impending publication. The main issue, as I recall, was around ambiguity insofar as who was speaking, acting, etc. I felt this made the story inaccessible to the reader because, unlike its author, I knew that the audience lacked the ability to travel into the author’s mind to understand his intentions. I tried to explain this to the writer, but he ultimately insisted that the work be accepted as is. I’m sorry, but even Stephen King has an editor.
So yes, it is possible to be good at the craft of editing and equally good at the craft of writing. My recommendation to writers, however, is to trust in your work, but to also recognize that your editor is approaching your story as an objective outsider, which is exactly how your readers will approach it. Perhaps author Kelley Harrell explained it best:
“A good editor doesn’t rewrite words, she rewires synapses.”
If you’re seeking copy-editing or developmental editing for your manuscript, consider professional editing services such as those available through Devil’s Party. Dianne is the principal editor and believe me when I say, she knows her stuff. View our Testimonials Page to read what others have said.