In praise of great editors
I don’t care how good a writer you are, a great editor will make you better.
I edit my own work exhaustively. It’s where most of the magic happens, at least for me. But a really smart editor will find a way to improve on even the best piece. If I’m lucky, that editor will also take the time to tell me what worked and what didn’t. It never fails to strengthen my skills.
This blog may be the only thing I write that I don’t ask someone to take a look at. Most of my work is reviewed by copy editors, who I hold in the highest esteem. When I’m flying solo, I call on a fellow writer to give my work a once-over. There’s always something, however small, to tweak. (Note to self: Get ahead of the National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) curve, to allow leeway to finalize posts with fresh eyes.)
I’ve had the pleasure of working with some incredibly good editors over the years. Still do, nearly every day. The best ones are clear in their expectations and quick to lend support.
This week, as I fight the battle of the flu bug, I’m also grateful for editors who have an often overlooked quality: compassion. (For the record, this is an under-appreciated trait in many, not just editors.) The best editors realize that writers are only human. That we’re going to have the occasional writer’s block. Or that we might get sick once in a while. And that quality work trumps what’s frequently an arbitrary deadline.
Today, when an editor found out I was working on her story despite still being sick, she emailed me: “Don’t even worry about it! Just get better.” Then she gave me two more days to work on the story, on top of the extension she’d already given me. I told her she is an angel of mercy and gave her an IOU for a rush turnaround on demand in future.
Great editors will always make you a better writer. And the very best editors have more than sharp skills. They have heart.