Respect for Editors

Jenny Harrison

I remember my very first first author tantrum. It was during the edit of my book, Debbie’s Story. I had feathered my returned manuscript with Post-It notes, identifying all the places where the editor had changed something – and which were changes with which I totally disagreed.

‘This was exactly how it happened’,  I complained. ‘How can you change that?’ ‘You’re killing off my voice!’ I cried.

My voice? As a first-time author what did I know about voice? And, besides, why did I think editing was going to kill it? In fact, I knew very little about the role of the editor and cared even less. My beloved, my baby, my perfect manuscript was sacrosanct.

As with all newbie author’s my ego was up there with the 747s.

It was only much later, about the time I published my third book, that I began to respect the role of the editor, began to understand that a good editor refines a manuscript, takes the rough stone and cuts and polishes it until it shines. In doing so, the editor allows the author’s voice to be heard clearly above the clamour of awkward paragraphs, mis-spelled words and poor grammar.

I’m not a professional editor, but over the past two decades of writing, I’ve picked up an idea or two on how to structure a sentence, now understand what passes for good grammar and know how to spell. Not only that, I’ve developed a sense of the music inherent in good writing and, sometimes, I put on my editing hat for friends and fellow writers.

As a result, I’ve discovered what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a disgruntled author’s ire – an interesting experience- and it’s also interesting to see the process from both sides of the pen: the creative expression coming up against the cool objectivity of the editor’s knowledge.

It only empphasises to me, once again, the importance of both the writing and the editing process, of the importance of the two disciplines working together to polish an idea to its highest, shining form.


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