Writer and Editor: An Odd Couple
It is a relationship mired with compatibility issues, albeit there is absolutely no place for irreconcilable differences
To best explain the relationship between writers and editors, one has to delve into Chinese philosophy. The concept of Yin (dark side) and yang (bright side) is used to describe opposite forces which are interconnected and make up all aspects.
They imply dualities that need to coexist despite their sharp contrast. As such, there is nothing that can be termed completely good or, for that matter, entirely bad. On the contrary, this duality is not only opposing in nature but also complements each other.
The combination of a writer and an editor is an example of such a duality. Who’s Yin and yang in this case is a matter of personal preference, and of course convenience.
Writers and editors make for an odd couple. This is meant to be a symbiotic relationship based on mutual admiration, respect, and understanding. However, the reality is somewhat, if not entirely, different. In fact, it is a relationship mired with compatibility issues.
That being said, there is absolutely no place for irreconcilable differences, as one cannot survive without the other.
Writers are a sentimental lot
A writer getting into a disagreement with the editor is nothing unusual. In fact, it is very much on the expected lines. On the other hand, a smooth interaction is definitely surprising. Before taking sides, it is imperative to understand the role and the contrasting mindset of the duo being discussed.
This is a relationship that treads on a very thin line, with one party investing personal emotions and the other focusing on a more professional, albeit rational, approach. While trust is palpably the prerequisite for such a relationship, there is always an undercurrent of conflict, a tension brewing, so to speak.
Writers spend considerable time in the ideation, execution and revision of their work before making the submission, and expectedly have a sentimental value attached to the same. It is something that an editor may understand but cannot let it come in the way of a convincing final draft.
Unlike writers, the editor’s job is a tad mechanical in nature. It more or less follows a set pattern, with minimum deviations. The scope for experimentation is limited. As such, the editor’s approach is pragmatic to the core and an antithesis to the emotional approach of a writer.
When optimism makes way for pessimism
From the moment an idea germinates in their brain up to the point the final draft is submitted for editing writers happen to be a personification of positivity. In fact, it is this optimism that helps them complete what they started out writing in the first place.
Once the draft is on the editing table, though, this optimism and positivity start making way for a bit of doubt and a lot of self-defense. Whether they like it or not, editors are to be blamed to an extent for this.
That being said, editors are in no way the flag bearer of negativity or the beacon of pessimism for that matter. On the contrary, they are the epitome of pragmatism. They give the submitted draft a much-needed second perspective, and as such tend to be extra cautious. Does this approach help? Well, not always.
It is an editor’s job to ensure the overall betterment of the draft. However, it is also their responsibility to understand the draft. It is here that most goof-ups happen. In their bid to make things perfect, editors fail to understand a writer’s perspective on certain occasions. Bringing every mistake to the writer’s attention, and suggesting wholesale changes, does impact writers in a negative manner.
Editors are only doing their job…
… And doing it very well. Who better can understand the role of editors than writers themselves?
Yes, that’s right! Editors may or may not be good writers but the writers always happen to be good editors. But the possibility of the emotions attached to their drafts outweighing reason is always there.
That being said, inadvertently writers happen to be the first editors of their respective drafts. Most, if not all, writers have this habit of giving their drafts a second look. In fact, there are writers who keep reworking on the draft until they are fully convinced.
By having a secondary glance at their initial draft again, writers ensure a thorough revision of the end product. The submission made to editors is therefore a lot more compact, to begin with. It is now the editors’ job to go through the same and give that emotional offering a rational twist, making corrections to aspects overlooked by writers.
As such, writers should always listen to their editors, and it shouldn’t be the other way around. In case of a disagreement, which is more often than not the case, it is the editors who deserve to take the final call, because their voice is the more rational of the two.
Describing the importance of the editors in his book The Insect Dialogues — a conversation between a writer and his editor, Colin Dickey explains “Editing is often not gentle,’ but if there’s an inherent (perhaps essential) violence in editing, it’s largely hidden from the reader.”
Arguments seldom ensure solutions
Arguments between writers and their editors aren’t unusual. With a mindset programmed to find faults, the editors more often than not glance through the text without actually bothering to fully understand the context. In fact, it is this somewhat hurried approach that leads to arguments, where no party is willing to concede an inch.
While avoiding arguments in their entirety isn’t practically possible, efforts can be, and should be, made to keep it to a minimum. Only then can a sensible solution be attained, one that not only benefits all the parties concerned but also works towards the betterment of the final draft.
The camaraderie between writers and editors needs to build over a period, and be cherished in the long run. It has to be a mutually beneficial relationship. Both parties concerned should help each other grow in their respective work profiles.
In this blog writer, Carol Tice lists five tips that can help writers build a strong writer-editor relationship. Likewise, blogger Chels Knorr explains the Rules of Maintenance between writers and editors.
Author Hannah Bauman also provides for actionable tips for a healthy working relationship between writers and their editors.
In the final analysis…
As mentioned before, an editor may or may not ever become a writer, but a writer always assumes the mantle of an editor. As such, the writer also needs to be more understanding of the two. It is common sense.
That being said, if there arise situations where all the commonsense goes down the drain and it becomes a clash of egos, then it should eventually be the editor’s call.
It is imperative for writers to keep their egos aside while dealing with editors. It helps retain sanity… And vanity.
The reason should always prevail over emotion.