The Importance of Picking the Right Editors

The Importance of Picking the Right Editors

Guest post by Alisa Gilbert

Nearly every piece of writing advice out there includes, in some form or another, the suggestion that we need to have others read our work. This is, of course, a no-brainer, simply because we writers need substantive, constructive feedback in order to make our final product as good as it can possibly be. Editing is a skill that's best honed after someone else gets their paws and red pens on our manuscripts.  But many writing advice columns leave off there. That is, they say, "Have others read your stuff," while we're left wondering who, exactly, should read it. Anybody? A friend, a teacher, a "real" writer?

In my own experience, I think it's important to have several people read your work, and to make sure that they all approach your writing from a different perspective. That is not to say, however, that you should have a motley crew of diverse writers with different tastes and aesthetics bleed on your stuff. This will only confuse and dishearten you, effectively making you question your every move. Having too many cooks deconstructing the broth can influence you to change your style to conform to competing visions. You also should avoid family members or close friends who, as well-meaning as they are, don't know how to criticize. You know who I'm talking about the ones who tell you everything you write is "great"

My personal editing group consists of three people one is a professional, published writer who taught a fiction workshop I took in college. Her natural teaching ability and keen knowledge of the industry makes her an obvious choice. The other one is a friend of mine who is also a writer. That he's in the same place I am sending out manuscripts, attending writers' conferences, all the while trying to survive as a freelance writer makes him an equally suitable editor because he brings to his editing an understanding created by our shared backgrounds. What's more, we trade our work, giving me ample opportunity to help him out while honing my own editing skills. My third, and no less important, editor is an acquaintance who is completely removed from the writing life. She has no desire to be a writer, but she does possess one highly valuable quality she's a voracious, careful, and sensitive reader. She brings a unique perspective in that she doesn't obsess about things that we writers tend to fetishize. To her, heavily stylized sentences and writer-y prose aren't as important as emotional depth and interesting characters.

My editing triumvirate is one of my most valued groups of people I know, and I really don't know where I would be without them. Along with their careful feedback, they give me the support and encouragement that every writer a particularly sensitive species of human being needs. I'm sure there are an infinite variety of editor/mentor types that different writers choose for different reasons, and they are surely just as effective. How do you decide who reads your stuff? How have they helped you develop your craft?

This guest post is contributed by Alisa Gilbert, who writes on the topics of bachelors degree.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id:


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