Editors and writers have a unique relationship. Because every editor has been through the writing process themselves, they understand the pain the writer goes through and the hard work they put in to create and complete a piece a work–be it an article or a whole book.
A knife is a perfect tool, but it does not crush anything as the hammer does. The same happens with words. You may write the best possible sentence or paragraph. But it may not necessarily be the one you should open with. This doesn’t mean that your writing is terrible. But rather, that particle, line or paragraph has a place somewhere else in the article or the book.
“The true wellspring of civilization isn’t writing; it is editing.”
As a writer, you wouldn’t know the difference sometimes. A writer is very close to their work. What may appear to be an error to the editor, may go unnoticed in the eyes of the author. That is the difference between a writer and an editor. A little tough love here and there from the editor is only to bring out the best in the writer.
My writing experience at Mith Books was nothing like any other I had been a part of. Every conversation that I shared with my editor, Dipa Sanatani has ended on a positive note and there is always an equal amount of respect between the two of us. Moreover, there’s been an equal amount of dedication put into the projects we work on together.
One of the best parts about our editor-writer relationship is that Dipa always found ways to push me out of my comfort zone and challenged me with new ideas and excellent feedback that has always motivated me to work harder than ever before. The strength of our relationship is that my editor always remained approachable and open.
“Editing with a writer is a joyous collaboration — not even a collaboration, but a conversation, a colloquy, a back-and-forth.”
—Michael Pietsch on editing David Foster Wallace The Atlantic, 2011
Like any other relationship, the author-editor partnership requires work from both ends and transparent communication. Both the editor and the author exist on the same planet, but remain in different worlds. Many writers fear that editors may hijack their work and make their own. But that’s not how it functions.
An editor works with the writer to polish the writer’s unique voice and ideas. This is one thing that has made a huge impact on my writing.
My editor never advised me what to insert where and which word to use where. Rather, she was like a sharpener to my blunt pencil. She worked on my existing work only to polish it. Through her, I rediscover precisely what I was trying to say in my article and also what is the best way to say it. Most importantly, I find her feedback invaluable. It is almost like she has given me the key to open the locks of any door I want.
An author-editor relationship is a collaborative one, with an ongoing conversation on how to make the piece better and hence will have to talk and work through it together. Both the editor and the author are on the same team.
And that makes the editor the author’s strongest critic and the biggest fan.
About the Author
Fareeha Arshad is a forager of meaning, a reader by passion, a writer by choice, and a scientist by vocation. The Arab born, confused Desi lives on the Persian Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia with her parents and siblings, where she spends most of her time studying, teaching, writing or cooking.