Creative minds are rarely neat...

Editing: A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

**This is a short paper I wrote for my Editing class, and I thought you would enjoy it.**

In her piece Stet By Me: Thoughts on Editing Fiction, Mandy Brett examines the role of the editor not only in the ‘slightly schizoid’ relationship to the novel and the author but to the publishing industry as well. She examines the levels of editing – from the piece to the individual words – as well as some of the balancing acts editors must do to be successful in their work. However, these examinations do not operate as a how-to for potential editors. Her detailing goes to strengthen her main point: the importance of editors in publishing. In a world where slashing budgets is the new norm, Brett argues that the largely ‘invisible’ role of editors is not one that should be discarded because of its lack of time in the spotlight.

Brett says that the purpose of publishing is “to transmit meaning from a single mind to a large number of minds”, so perhaps it is only appropriate that the editor’s experience is such a schizoid one. The editor must play translator between the one and the many while working with the one and being the many. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, it only stands as the tip of the iceberg in a strange – and somehow glorious to those who do it – world.

If Brett’s experience is to be taken as the standard experience of an editor, then it’s not a leap to conclude that all great or potentially great editors are slightly mad. The madness comes not in trying to find some balance between, for instance, reading for editing and reading for pleasure but in learning to move from one to the other and back again without, as Brett puts it, “thinking your gallbladder is going to explode”. (As I no longer possess my gallbladder, perhaps I’m safe.)

Despite all the madness, there is still a certain mystique to editors and editing (though, perhaps, only in the regard of those who aspire to the profession). Editors are word-bearers, the keepers of small and seemingly dangerous knowledge about authors and the work required to bring their novels to publishing standards. They see novels as they are born – often noisy, messy, somewhat unappealing (depending on whom you ask). Along those lines, the editor must play parent to the author, in a way, delivering criticism with enough encouragement so the authors don’t lose their gallbladders.

Perhaps all I have really written thus far is a rehash what Brett has already written. In that case, I will sum up my reaction in a single sentence:

In the end, it appears as though editors are the stay-at-home parent of the publishing industry: invisible and often unthanked when everything goes right and yet sharply noticed in their absence.

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