Betsy Lerner, who wrote The Forest for the Trees, gives a fantastic summation of why an author needs an editor:
“When an editor works with an author, she cannot help seeing into the medicine cabinet of his soul. All the terrible emotions, the desire for vindications, the paranoia, and the projection are bottled in there, along with all the excesses of envy, desire for revenge, all the hypochondriacal responses, rituals, defenses, and the twin obsessions with sex and money. In other words, the stuff of great books.”
Many authors are highly critical of editors, with some of them saying that their editors do not take their voice into account and – as a result – have destroyed the entire story. As an editor myself, I’ve worked with many authors who argue with me over every choice of vocabulary as well as every single punctuation mark.
I think that the problem that many authors find – especially newbie authors – is that they find the entire process of editing to be quite authoritative, almost reminding them of their high school English teacher giving them a particular mark for their creative writing. (Wearing my author’s hat, I always thought that giving a mark for creative writing was quite ridiculous. My thoughts went along the lines that it was impossible to mark a piece of creative writing ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in the same way that you would mark a maths test.)
But the editor does SO much more than just being the English teacher!
Yes, they will correct typos and grammatical errors, however, that’s not where the beauty of editing, for an author, lies.
An editor helps to develop the book and make it come alive
The process of writing a book requires a lot of time and revision. It’s not as easy as just spewing out words onto a blank Word document. Yes, this is the first step, but after the author has all their thoughts down, the next step is to go over what they’ve written and to evaluate a number of things critically. For example, the author will ask themselves:
- Does the chapter flow logically?
- Are my characters well developed?
- Are my plot lines believable?
They will go over what they’ve written again and again until their brains become so used to what is in the manuscript that the author no longer sees any mistakes. In a way, you become so tired of rewriting the manuscript that your brain is no longer recognizing any mistakes so that you don’t have to read it again!
The editor steps in at this point and takes the manuscript from you and reads it with fresh eyes that have not become used to what you’ve written. They can approach your work from a different perspective and make new suggestions (some of them which you may quite like!) to develop your book.
But remember one thing.
The editor is there only to make suggestions for your book. You are perfectly entitled not to go along with what they’ve put forward – it’s your book. You’re allowed to make it how you want it to be. As the author, you’re in the driving seat. The editor is the navigator and is there only to give you suggestions about where to go.
About Lia Marus
Lia Marus is an editor, writer, and proofreader. She has over 10 years of experience in the publishing, communications, and digital marketing fields and comes highly recommended by all of her clients.
Blogpost by Lia Marus: www.liamarus.com