You’re a writer.1 You know what you want to say, how you want to say it and why it needs to be said at all. You can write your book just the way you want to write it and have it published as an e-book or through a print-on-demand house without any editorial assistance. You don’t need an editor.
But you need an editor.
You need an editor because you’re too close to your own book to read it objectively, and your friends and family are too close to you to do it for you. You need an outsider who isn’t afraid to tell you what works and what doesn’t. Those people are probably easy to find since everyone is a critic these days, but what makes an editor different is that she actually knows what she’s talking about. An editor’s goal isn’t to make your book better, her goal is to show you what you need to do so that the story you set out to tell gets told. She doesn’t rewrite for you, doesn’t tell how to change a flat character into a person, she simply points out what needs to be done and leaves the rest up to you. If being an editor sounds simple then you’ve never done it. And if it sounds easy to work with an editor, you’ve never done that either.
I’ve come to love and loath manuscript discussions with my editor. I love them since no one—not even me—reads my writing so carefully. It’s an ego thing I’m sure, but I find it exciting to listen to someone analyze my work with such clarity and insight. She understands what I’m shooting for and knows that every word was used for a reason. She hears my style. She gets my jokes. She’s my biggest fan.
As for the loathing part, nobody wants to be told that there’s something wrong with their baby. My editor is the specialist called in to deliver the diagnosis. It’s never good news. Yes, she has advice, and she’ll listen to me as I try to think my way through the mess I created, a mess I hadn’t even noticed until she pointed it out. Then she sends me back—alone—to make it all better. She spots my flaws. She calls me out. She’s my editor.
Anne’s been my editor since I started writing young adult books, and every one of them is better—much, much better—because of her. She knew when to push me, when to pull back and when to let go. She never let me let myself down. That may not make sense to you, but it does to me and it’s made all the difference. Later this month, Anne will start her new position at a different publisher. She’ll be amazing since that’s who she is. And the authors she’ll soon be working with have no idea how lucky they are.
I’m looking forward to working with my new editor—you can’t swing a cat at Harper Collins Children’s Books without hitting some freakishly talented people—and I’m sure my new editor will challenge me in ways I may not like but definitely need. Because that’s what an editor does and why, as a writer, you need one.
Anne was my editor. She’ll always be my friend.
1. Why else would you take the time to read a blog post that will discuss why you need an editor?