I am often intrigued by the number of authors who, for various reasons, believe they can also be good editors – and market themselves as such.
Sometimes it works. More often it doesn’t. Several times, now, I’ve had manuscripts butchered during the publishing process by contract editors who, in fact, were obviously writers. One of them totally failed to ‘get’ what I was doing in one of my books and tried to totally re-write it, as if he were the author, sourcing his re-writes with stuff he’d pulled from a single other book, and sprinkling the MS with patronising comments along the way as if I were a novice in his field. (When I last looked, I had ten times the number of books published that this guy had managed, over a far longer period. Sigh…).
It happens, though. And my first port of call in such circumstance is to ask the publisher to find another editor and get the job done competently. Sometimes that happens.
The fact is that editing is a separate skill of its own, one that demands less creativity and more technical analysis than writing. Editors also have to be able to stand back and accept that the author’s voice is valid, even if it isn’t how the editor would necessarily express themselves. If the archetypes are to be believed, authors and editors are actually two different sorts of people:
1. The Archetypal Editor is…
– analytical thinking
– identifies boundaries
2. The Archetypal Author is…
– has original thoughts
– identifies boundaries in order to break them
– relational/conceptual thinking
See what I mean? As I say, sometimes you’ll get an author who fills both categories. But not often. And that’s why authors really shouldn’t present themselves as editors – unless, of course, they have those ‘editorial’ analytical skills. And a red pen.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015