A reader recently sent me a link to this Editor Unleashed post on Is Editing Worth It? In the article the author talks about an interview she once did with Laurell K. Hamilton in which the author said, “once you become successful as an author, your editor stops editing you.”
This link actually came at a very good time since I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I don’t think it’s any big secret that there are authors out there that no longer seem to be edited. Readers and writers talk about it all the time; many say they can tell the author isn’t being edited and editors and agents know it happens. But who is really to blame and is it even a problem?
Agents and editors preach all the time about how important editing is. As a former editor I’m a big believer that all writers need someone they trust in their corner, someone who will never hesitate to tell them that something isn’t working and needs to be fixed, someone who will work with them to create a stronger book. But do writers really believe this to be true? Or do many feel that once you reach a certain milestone in your career you can stop listening to everyone else and just write what you want to write? That that’s actually the benefit of success? That finally you can do whatever you want? Or is it the fault of agents and editors who become fearful they’ll offend the author, who will go running to an editor and house who is willing to let them do whatever they want? And is this even a valid fear?
I suspect that, as always, the answer to these questions is that it depends. It depends on the relationship the author has built with her editor and it depends on the trust the two have to really be able to talk. I’m sure there are authors out there who refuse to listen to anything anyone has to say because they believe they know better, and I’m just as sure there are authors out there who wish their editors would edit as they once did instead of being afraid of their every move.
I don’t think all NYT bestselling authors go unedited. In fact, I know for a fact they don’t and that there are many who work just as closely with their editors now as they ever did. I think that editing is important and I don’t think it’s always pretty, but getting a book ready for the public takes teamwork. It always has and it always will. Sure, the author does 99% of the work and that’s why her name is the one on the cover. However, when doing almost anything in life I think it’s good to have a second eye, someone who can really tell it like it is and who, most important, makes your work stronger.
There are a number of amazing editors out there who, no matter what, never stop editing, and I hope they continue to do what they do because for all of us readers it only makes the work more enjoyable.