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  • Writer's pictureNatash Cox

The role of the editor: A perilous journey

I don’t think anyone wants their work to be edited; not really. Every author would love to be able to just write the first words that come to their mind and have them be utterly perfect from the second they hit the page. Whilst the author’s ideas are brilliant and unique, the brain sadly does not include auto-correct or the ability to organise ideas into a neat beginning, middle, and end. This is where the editor comes in.

Imagine if you were able to read your writing from the perspective of your audience? That is an editor. We are curious beings that have ability to shapeshift between author, critic, and reader at will. We see things the author cannot and help matchmake your writing to your audience.

But why not just have a friend or peer read it for me instead? I hear you ask. Good question! The answer is you should have a friend or peer read it! Writing is not an isolated artform and having people you trust read your work can give you great insight into how to improve. But a friend or peer will only tell you what they like or don’t like. They can very rarely give you the why or the how.

They might love a character but are unable to explain what aspect of them is great. They might hate an action scene but wouldn’t be able to tell you how to change it. The advice they give is wonderful and useful but does not go below the surface to the mechanics of the story/idea.

An editor is a gardener, they reach their fingers into the soil and point at the exact root system of the weeds and show you where you need to pull. They find the flower buds and then trace down the stems to show where the plant is strongest and where to add more shoots. Editors have their hands in the soil, and also a bird’s eye view of the story. Some editors look only at the tiny insects, like grammar, spelling, and wording in your line edits. Others are an eagle overhead, surveying plot structure, character arcs, and tone.

The idea in your brain before it is put to paper is wonderful and exciting. The editor’s job is to sit with you and your writing and try to make it match that vision in your mind as best we can. It is a partnership of creativity, and a journey of ideas. It is both scary and exhilarating.

To be critiqued is terrifying and anxiety-inducing but nothing feels better than seeing the work in its final form, ready for print. And it is a journey that you and your editor get to go on together.

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