What is An Editor?


Are they mean, heartless individuals who just want to cut the lovable-but-unnecessary side character out of a manuscript, and the joy out of an author’s life? Or are they the heroes that authors need—but don’t deserve?

As someone who has been on both sides of the editor’s desk, I’ve experienced the pain of having my work torn to shreds, and the pain of working with authors who see no fault with their work.

And now that I’ve been in both positions, I have a greater appreciation and respect for authors and editors alike. It’s not always easy to hear that your writing could use some work—especially if you’ve done your best.

Working With Authors

As the founding editor of The Pearl, an online literary magazine, I’ve worked with authors of all backgrounds and experience levels. Some of them were an absolute joy to work with and I would love to work with them again in the future, while others were… Well, not as much fun to work with.

Writing can be such a vulnerable profession, so it makes sense for some authors to be sensitive to criticism. As an editor, I had to do my best to give my critiques and suggest changes in ways that wouldn’t be seen as an attack by the story’s author.

But no matter how gentle or respectful you are, there will always be authors who will see any negative feedback as a personal attack against them.

The Worst Authors I’ve Worked With:

There’s a fine line between questioning an editor’s decision and outright arguing with them, and authors who walk this line can be frustrating to deal with.

I’ve had authors email me and argue over nearly every single change I suggested, demand to have their story published by a certain date, and even question my credibility and skills as an editor.

Because of the disrespect these authors showed me, I would never work with them again unless their writing was so perfect that it didn’t need to be edited at all.

Even if an author has a great story, if their character and attitude is terrible than it’s really not worth it to go through the stress and pain of working with them.

Confessions of An Editor

Editors definitely aren’t perfect. 

I’ve made plenty of mistakes—especially when I first started out as an editor. And that’s why I don’t mind if authors email me questions about my suggestions. 

My goal as an editor is to make the author look good, but I also want the author to be happy with the results they receive.

I’ve worked with a couple authors who pushed back on my suggestions because they felt like the changes I suggested didn’t fit with the story they were trying to tell. So I asked them, “What is the story you’re trying to tell?” After they explained, I was able to find a different solution that improved the writing quality and fit with the stories they were trying to tell.

If the authors hadn’t said anything and just made the changes I had suggested, their stories would definitely still have been great, but they probably wouldn’t have been as happy with the outcome.

The Best Authors to Work With:

Authors who ask questions (without hostility or defensiveness) are my favorite people to work with.

The more questions an author asks, the easier it is for me as an editor to make sure we’re on the same page, especially if the author never had their work published before.

I’ve also had great experiences working with experienced authors, and people who are familiar with the editing process.

One author even sent me a word document with track changes turned on so I could see the exact edits she made without searching around or comparing documents (needless to say, I would be more than happy to work with this author again).

Another huge thing is formatting. Since I would have to format the stories myself when it was time to publish them to The Pearl, it was pretty annoying when authors would format their work themselves since I would have to undo their formatting and reformat their stories correctly before they could be posted.

So I really appreciate authors who don’t format their work!

The Truth Is…

Editors aren’t all-powerful, all-knowing entities who laugh as they markup your manuscript with red. They aren’t even bitter, resentful people who only feel happiness when they can tear down someone else’s work (at least not most of the time). 

A good editor is someone who wants to make sure that an author’s story can be read, understood, and enjoyed the way the author intended for it to be.

Before You Go…

Have you had any good or bad experiences working with an editor?

Let me know down in the comments!

Read last week’s blog here!

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