editingPublishing Fear FreeWriting Fear Free

Editors Suck!

Editors suck the joy and creativity out of writing?

In a story from Gawker:

Go find a story published a few years ago in The New Yorker, perhaps America’s most tightly edited magazine. Give that story to an editor, and tell him it’s a draft. I guarantee you that that editor will take that story—well-polished diamond that it presumably is—and suggest a host of changes. Rewrite the story to the specifications of the new editor. Then take it to another editor, and repeat the process. You will find, once again, that the new editor has changes in mind. If you were a masochist, you could continue this process indefinitely. You would never find an editor who read the story, set down his pencil, and said, “Looks fine. This story is perfect.” This is because editing is an art, not a science. To imagine that more editors will produce a better story is akin to imagining that a song by your favorite band would be better if, after the band finished it, it was remixed by a succession of ten producers, one after the other. Would it be different? Yes. Would it be better? I doubt it. The only thing you can be sure of is that it would not be the song that the actual musicians wanted it to be. (Emphasis added.)

Having worked as an editor before becoming a fiction writer, I’ve been on both sides of this issue. I believe editing is important because it helps produce clearer communication between writer and reader. It can also help ensure a satisfying reading experience. On the other hand, editing can be taken too far. Everyone has a different opinion on a plot or character, and there is no way to satisfy every single reader…or editor. It just ain’t gonna happen.

Good editors are valuable. They are also rare. If we simply kept the good ones and dismissed the bad ones, the ranks of editors would immediately shrink to saner levels. Editors are an important part of writing—a subordinate part….

When all of the people in the writing world are dead and gone, the only thing that we will leave behind are our stories. Stories are, ultimately, what matter. Stories are what websites and magazines and media “brands” live and die on. Stories come from writers. Writers come first.

Write on!

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