Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

What Are Editors Good For?

I’ve written here before about editors

And, many writers have some interesting relationships with them.

But, first, it’ll be good to decide what kind of editor we’re talking about.

Here are a couple links that describe various types of editors:




I gave you three because different people have different ideas about not only what kind of editors there are but also what the different editors are supposed to do

I sincerely hope a few readers of this post who are writers and have experience with editors will weigh in on this topic in the Comments.

For those who have no experience, reading the info at those links may give you enough to make a comment or two but I have another idea.

A video with Joel Friedlander interviewing a Developmental Editor, Alan Rinzler. who’s quite well-known in the United States.

By the way, whether or not you’ve had experience with an editor, please don’t believe everything Mr. Rinzler says.

Just like I’ve warned readers about “Rules” for writers, I must warn about “Musts” with editors.

Watch the video, perhaps check the links, think about it, and I’ll meet you in the Comments :-)

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3 responses to “What Are Editors Good For?

  1. Jane Watson July 30, 2013 at 7:48 am

    I have had some experience with developmental book editors (I call them structural editors) and with book line editors. My experience with the first was extremely positive, she liked my book and was very insightful and helpful and actually made a suggestion about the structure that was crucial to the book (she suggested I put the end of the book at the beginning ;-). My experience with line editors was somewhat helpful… but it really would be good if the typesetter did not introduce new errors in the text after the line editor and I have ironed them out!

    Where I have had problems however is with literary magazine editors. This experience seems to be a mixed bag. If the editor of your short story is experienced, sensitive and able to read then it can be an extremely rich and nurturing experience, if on the other hand they view the process as an exercise in power it can be horrifying. Your story, which strangely they must have liked seeing as they accepted it, is turned by them into something you do not like or even recognise and is actually the story they wanted to write… I know of many scarifying experiences, which writers have gone through, at the hands of an inexperienced magazine editor ;-)

    I would never hire an editor before I write a book as an ‘interventionist’ as Alan Rinzler suggests. At that stage it is my book, not the ‘collaborator’s’. A book in my opinion should be able to change organically as it is written. Sometimes the strangest red herring outside the ‘plan’ can develop into the most crucial metaphor or plot turn for the story. The book is fed by my muse, not theirs. However I do consult readers for my work after a draft is finished. At that stage I am happy to talk about the ‘plan’. Another set of eyes at the early stage of creation would change my plan/vision. I do not agree that interfering at an early stage ‘saves time’. Why do you want to save time? A book takes a long time to write…


    • Alexander M Zoltai July 30, 2013 at 10:50 am

      Well, Jane, Structural certainly seems the right term for your Developmental editor :-)

      The after-editing-editorial errors seem like they would be extremely exasperating! :-(

      Fascinating perspective, Jane—an editor changing the story into what They wanted to have written. That, to me, is nearly Criminal :-(

      I, too, took issue with Rinzler’s Before-Writing “editing”—and, what a brilliant thing you say: “I do not agree that interfering at an early stage ‘saves time’. Why do you want to save time? A book takes a long time to write

      Thank you, Jane, for such a Rich Comment :-)


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