We’re All in This Together: The Author/Editor Relationship
Recently, a fellow member of a Facebook group for editors that I’m a part of posted a query for advice from the group. One of the self-publishing authors she worked with had written a really good book, which this editor had only had a few minor and totally fixable notes on, but was suffering crippling self-doubt. So much so, that the author had written her that he felt guilty about wasting her time. The editor wanted to be encouraging, especially because she really loved the book and she’s also a writer, so she gets it, but she didn’t want to play amateur psychologist. She didn’t know if responding to his email and encouraging him to continue with his plans of self-publishing was inappropriate or not.
Editors are a nurturing lot by nature, so the responses encouraged her to give the author the boost he was crying out for, which she was happy to do.
While healthy boundaries are important in any relationship, the ability to relate generously is equally important. What are writing and storytelling if not attempts to share some deep part of ourselves with others? The best stories are birthed from a place of emotional truth, calling the editor to play the role of midwife. Some, if not all, new moms (and dads) need some level of encouragement.
Writing is hard, it takes dedication and humility. Sometimes what you write isn’t very good, and sometimes it’s so brilliant that you learn something profound from yourself that you didn’t know before you wrote it. That can be really spooky! Taking what you wrote apart, examining it, discovering where it’s lacking, and trying to figure out how to fix it is grueling work that can bring up all sorts of issues. If you’re working with a developmental editor on this part of the process, you should expect some love and encouragement.
And if you get to the finish line and are struck with paralyzing fear about sending the result of your hard work out into the world, who better to give you a boost and help allay your fears than the expert that you hired to help you fix what wasn’t working about your book.
Hopefully, over the course of working together, you’ve developed a professional relationship based on honesty, trust, and respect—your editor has been honest with you about the strengths and weaknesses of your work, you trust and respect your editor’s insight, your editor respects your intelligence and ability. So, when your editor says “Hey, don’t listen to that self-sabotaging voice! Your work is good. Get it out there,” you can trust her words.
We all need encouragement of one kind or another at every step of our careers. We all face self-doubt. If your editor isn’t someone you can confide in about those doubts and receive encouragement from, you might have the wrong editor.
And don’t forget that your editors need encouragement too. If they’ve helped you learn and grow, made your work better, and made you feel good about doing your work, tell them!
After all, we’re all in this together.