The Writer & Editor Relationship

by jeanineoloughlin

Thinking Through My Fingers

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” – Issac Asimov

For me a good editor is worth their weight in gold. They provide much-needed insight and perspective to help you create a piece that resonates with readers. However, working with a bad editor can be extremely frustrating. Being able to see both sides of the coin as both a reader and an editor has helped me understand where my strengths lie as an editor and how best to interact with an editor to get the information I need from them.

There are a lot of memes out there that pit the editor and writer against each other. In my experience both parties tend to have a much more enjoyable experience if they are working together. Unless you are mortal enemies I don’t think any editor is out there trying to make a writer’s work fail. Both teams are striving to help create a wonderful and entertaining piece. So when you’re working with an editor or a team of editors keep in mind that they’re on your side, it makes the relationship stronger and really makes the process a lot less painful.

Another important thing between writer and editor is to establish guidelines for what you’re trying to get out of this edit pass. This allows the editor to understand what feedback/information the writer is looking for, or specific areas to really pick apart. This ensures that the writer gets what he needs from the review and the editor isn’t wasting time picking apart things the writer isn’t ready for. A lot of my edit passes I ask my edit team (alpha readers in my case) to look for big plot holes, things they didn’t understand, are the characters believable and likable (or hateable depending on the story). Those are the areas that tend to push for rewrites.

It’s also important to establish what areas an editor is strong in. I know that some of my editors are better at analyzing a plot and poking 100 holes in it, while others are better at giving feedback on character development. I have one alpha reader who only does copy-editing (who I adore for that). As an example I know that I am terrible for grammar and spelling editing. It’s never been my strong suit as some of you may have noticed. However, I feel my editing strengths lie in character arc. I always try to understand the characters I’m reading and their motivations. If something they do doesn’t make sense based on what I know of them, or if I don’t feel I know them at all that will drive me deeper and deeper into the plot to point out the holes in a story. I’m sure this can annoy some writers as I will send them feedback that will greatly consist of just questions of “why did x do that?” The important part I feel I do include in my feedback of that nature is I always try to justify my confusion with examples pulled from the work. That way I can explain to the writer what in the piece led me to my conclusion about the character.

When building a relationship between editor and writer (whether peer-to-peer or through a community) having some established guidelines and working together will help you both to create amazing pieces.

Happy Writing!