My very first experience working with an Editor was at the broadsheet newspaper Haaretz. I was an intern at the time and I can still remember going up to my editor with very first article and wondering if I’d make the cut for publication. I was nervous. Really nervous.
All writers have heard horror stories of editors who change the content so significantly that it looks nothing like what they’ve written. The last thing I wanted to do was sell my soul to have my name printed in ink.
My hands were shaking as I handed her the article. I swallowed hard and waited patiently as she read through it. What if she hates it? What if I’m not a writer, but an imposter? Midway through reading, she giggled.
“You’re funny,” she said.
She was still smiling when she reached the end of my article. She promptly took out her pencil, rearranged a few paragraphs and gave me some ideas to take my article to the next level. With her suggestions, my work went from good to great.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I can’t say I had any aspirations to become an editor. For the past several months, I’ve been the Editor-in-Chief at Mith Books. I’ve had the opportunity to read A LOT of unpublished work. It’s a completely different experience to reading published work.
A lot of it is raw, uncut and unpolished. It can take anything between 30 minutes to three hours to edit a 1200 word article. The ideas are already there. The content is already there.
My job is to prepare those words for the reader.
If the author is the mother giving birth, I am the midwife making sure that the baby comes into this world safe and sound. Each work of creation is different, and comes into this world through a different passage. Having worked with lots of writers and writing styles, I know it’s a different experience each time. No two births are ever the same.
Here’s what I’ve learnt about the author-editor relationship.
1. The editor’s job is to offer solutions, not to tell authors they have a problem.
A good editor offers constructive feedback, not criticism.
2. There will be projects editors don’t take on because it is not in their area of expertise. Writers shouldn’t take this personally.
Before authors seek out an editor, they should do their research and find out what genres that editor works with. An editor for young adult novels will be different to an editor for business books.
3. Editors will smile, laugh, cry and be moved by the authors they work with.
This is the best part of being an editor. Seriously. I’ve had authors crack me up and move me to tears. It’s incredible.
4. The editor should never tell the author what to write.
An editor should understand the author’s vision and make it accessible to the reader.
5. Editors are professionals, not qualified therapists.
Editors are often writers themselves. We are here to empathise and motivate authors to face challenges and overcome obstacles on their journey towards publication. However, we are not qualified to deal with authors who view writing as a form of therapy to deal with their personal issues.
6. The author decides on the North Star and the editor is the compass.
We are here to offer alternative routes to get you to your destination. Be open to that journey.
7. The Author-Editor relationship is a partnership.
Like any relationship–it requires time, work and commitment from both parties.
8. It is imperative that authors implement feedback from their editors.
An editor notices when an author is taking the steps to improve. This process can take several months. We understand that.
9. The editor is not here to rewrite your work.
Writing is a time-consuming process that requires considerable commitment from the author. The editor is here to guide you on that journey. They cannot take that journey for you.
10. Stick to the process and don’t give up.
There is no substitute for good old-fashioned persistence. Once the painful process of labour is over, the editor will be there by your side celebrating with you when your baby finally comes into this world.
Congratulations. You did it. It has been a privilege to be part of your journey.