Just like a graphic designer or an agent, an editor should be part of a writer’s team. The editor’s job is to work with you to produce the best possible product.
An editor has two bosses—one real and one virtual. The writer is always the real boss, the one who makes the final decisions. And most editors want to please the writer and maintain a friendly relationship. The other boss is the devil’s advocate, the one who has to tell the writer where things need improving. And balancing these two roles can be challenging.
While some writer’s works require only technical corrections (spelling, word choice, punctuation, grammar), other writer’s sometimes need to be told that their writing skills fail to effectively communicate their message. But these are the extremes. Most editors will need to do a combination of these tasks, in various proportions.
The writer should view the editor’s job as strengthening and polishing the work, improving the weaker areas. It’s not to criticize the writer as a person. It should be just the opposite. An editor should provide encouragement, pointing out the strengths in the work (e.g., the message, the words, the organization, the research).
An editor is part of a writer’s team. And like any team, members bring a variety of talents or skills. But most teams have a single goal: to win at whatever it is they do. And in the best teams, people get along and support each other.
So, if you’re a writer seeking an editor, here are somethings to look for. The editor should be someone who: is easy to communicate with, understands your vision and goals, shares some of your values, perhaps has some experience in your field, and will challenge you to create the best possible outcome.
The writer’s job is to listen to the editor’s suggestions (not demands), and either accept them, modify them, or reject them. The writer always has the final say. But to do that, the writer needs to understand where the suggestions are coming from. A good editor’s job is to improve the work.
Bottom line: Find an editor you can trust and work with. Then listen to his or her suggestions, knowing that the editor’s goals and yours are the same: to create a successful work.
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