Writer vs Editor

It’s been… a long time since I’ve written anything here. Perhaps four years plus interest. Originally I shut this blog down to focus on Thunderbird Studios. Things change, and here I am again. Doing my own thing. Focusing on just writing once more.

My tenure as editor ends after this month. The forthcoming Decades of San Cicaro will likely be the last time I serve in this capacity for the foreseeable future.

I’ve learned so much from editing, but I don’t enjoy who it made me become. As an editor, you train yourself to seek weakness in other people’s work. To catch errors and faults, to strengthen prose and fill plot holes. Yet every changed line left me wondering if it was right or fair. Where was the boundary between their words and my own? Editing even erodes one’s ability to enjoy reading for the sake of entertainment. I found myself seeing problems in media I once adored.

Going from writer to editor was a reversal in the power dynamic. There are certain truths one can only learn by sitting in that chair, being the one to whom writers answer. The one to whom they submit. I was rough because I wanted more out of my writers. Yet after revising several books and reading hundreds of stories, the world feels very different now. Many writers dive into the industry with a “devil may care” attitude, but editors must accept the importance of other’s opinions.

My friends and I have had several philosophical debates about this. The brutal truth is that other people’s opinions are what sell our books. What convinces others to buy them, to accept them. Authors past like J.R.R. Tolkien, Agatha Christie and Ray Bradbury are considered great not because of what they thought. They are great because others enjoy and continue to recommend their work.

My words will anger many struggling authors, but who wants to be remembered for their ego? Some enjoy following writers on social media for their humor, yet that’s not proof their work will outlive their Twitter feed. There are truths that need to be said.

To begin, the fallacy of self-publishing is the illusion that quality control can go to the needed lengths. Not even by employing an editor. No matter how skilled.

For freelance editors, the client is not the reader. The client is the writer. The editor’s power is fundamentally lost if he or she has no ability to say “it’s not good enough.” To reject, to act as the proper ambassador for the audience and the stakeholders. A freelance editor cannot, and professionally should not, bite the hand that feeds.

Sure, they should still improve the manuscript by punching up prose and providing copyediting. Perhaps even convincing the writer to redo a scene or two. Yet at the end of the day, the writer is the boss. If the boss feels the book is ready, a hired editor has little capacity to halt it.

Self-publishing has been a revolution against the word “submit.” Defined, it means to give over or yield power to another. Yet that’s what we do regardless, be it to a traditional publisher or directly to the readers. Now I fear that self-publishing has blinded many writers to Icarian failings, left them unable to accept that pride is the only true enemy. Early successes beget greater tragedies when a sequel fails to live up to expectations. Stories disappoint when we refuse to apply further effort. And when characters are written into boxes they cannot escape without ruining the experience, we let the audience down.

Writing is and always will be a fight against one’s pride and arrogance. And having seen that in others and even myself, I hope to return it with fresh insight. Only then will tomorrow bring something new.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s