An Ode to the Editor

angry cat
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The editor is my friend. The editor is my friend. The editor is my friend, your pen screams across that document you’ve been working to no end. You are worried because you know what has to happen. You end, and it is off to the editor for a spell. It will be brutal and grueling, the cause of sneers and stares and cursing and, of course, a few swears.

Editors are the bedrock of great books, writers will admit. They are protectors of readers’ sanity. Shapers of the final product. Keeper of the… well, they fix stuff folks like me don’t. They wear their disguises of goggles (oft times) by day and cheeky smiles when a new manuscript arrives, fresh from the writer’s drive. One was disguised as a needle and thread artist (Embroidery, if you must, have you ever seen their stuff) I had the pleasure of meeting. Pleasant. Engaging. Quite interesting. You should meet her if you’re on LinkedIn, where things seem to be happening.

She loves to read. I believe there was an offer to proofread, to polish her skills. You may want to ask her if that’s valid.

The proofread is where the battle begins. It starts when the editor looks at what they’ve been handed. They open it and read a few lines in. Looks up and gives you a cheeky smile that says more than it needs to, assuming you’re in the same room, which almost never happens to protect the poor writer. Could you imagine the headline? EXTRA EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT: EDITOR STRANGLES WRITER DURING PROOFREADING! We could write a serial strangler series, about editors and writers.

Painstakingly we write our first drafts. Second. Third. Why not a fourth go for better flow. Then we gloss, changing the styles and fonts and layout so our eyes are fresh. But the editor’s first twitch says we, ah, maybe missed something, I’d guess. Oh that damned, Oxford comma. It is usually that comma – dashed off some place where it doesn’t belong. Editors notice a misplaced comma, quickly and often.

Each mistake is recognized by a wince. A mutter. And then the swishing of pencil. An ancient writing utensil. I think they do that as ironic spite. Drag the pencil across a patch you can’t see while staring over the rim of their reading tool. Eyes twitch left to right while they curse under their breaths and drink gobs of coffee before it all cools. They need that stuff like writers do.

I can just imagine the fear in my first editor’s eyes when he saw the job he accepted. Hear him swear up and down that he would never look at another book if God would just take this one away. But editors persist. They must. They are the last line of defense between the giddy writers and greedy readers hungrily awaiting their new favorite book to snuggle with on their favorite couch – TV, eat your heart out, writers created the couch potato – and you too :p.

The editor is your friend you fret. The pen flashes. The editor shakes their heads and their teeth gnashes. They stare at you with contempt as they set to work grudgingly. They edit the accursed thing without mercy. They know you’re going to curse when you see the final version, right up till you open the pages and see pristine black lines. Well written. Perfectly inked. And you are finally ready to accept that the editor truly is your friend… but you still want that scene they deleted.

Knowing their work, a writer will see that missing scene right where the action began cresting. You know the one, right where the hero started cursing. The editor first noticed a misspelling. Then maybe another butchered punctuation. Then, corrected and glowing, it just didn’t belong.

A narrow-eyed stare and burning gaze turns to adoration soon after the reading is complete. It seems appropriate, even with the missing scenes (you notice more as you read). It all seems complete. It all seems good. Your punctuations are now in their proper place. Your first glowing review said so. And you. Writer. Editor. Happy literature gluttons, can now agree to shake hands and make up… until the next book gets to the table for edits.

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