Have you ever read a book and wondered where the editor was? (You bloated novels know who you are.) The obvious answer is most likely at their desk in a publishing office. Or on a couch. Anywhere with a stack of Post-its and a pen. Metaphysically, well, we writers and readers have to have a discerning eye to tell when and where the editor helped the author perfect the text, or to realize the editor never graced the manuscript with his/her presence and just sent it off to the copy editor and designer.
Is it appropriate for an editor to kowtow to an author’s ego and not make any suggestions or just send the manuscript to press, suggestions ignored [provided the bottom line won’t be adversely affected]? Or are we armchair and T pole critics ignorant of how much worse a text was before it got to its fatty state? One thing that both encourages and terrifies me about being a nascent writer is seeing authors hold up a stack of drafts with editorial notes. And that’s the hacked-apart copy after a contract has been signed and advance paid. I’d always heard you needed a perfect draft just to get a full read by an editor. But obviously not if there’s a potful of ink on the draft. Then again, that just reminds me how much more work I have to do to get the thing marketable!
Finally, can established writers be trusted to be their own editors? Or are we too close to the story? I remember hearing a bootleg copy of the Beatles tinkering with Strawberry Fields Forever in an apartment. I learned two things: 1) don’t ever listen to the same song for 50 times in a row; you will probably have psychosomatic reactions to it years later, and 2) the artists brought raw lyrics and notes to a great song without first submitting to the studio editor, who’d return it with a Post-it note comment on each line.I’d like to believe that if I can distance myself from the story, put on the editorial hat I earned through jobs and schooling, I can fix things myself.
What do you think?