If you noticed the book on my desk in the landing page image, you might be a good editor, with an eye for detail!
It's Max Perkins, Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg and it's awesome. Berg tells the story of Scribner editor Perkins, who worked with such talent as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. And boy, did he have great influence on these literary giants and others.
Moreover, he says, he "served as psychoanalyst, lovelorn adviser, marriage counselor, career manager and moneylender." Few editors before him, says Berg, "had done so much work on manuscripts yet he was always faithful to his credo, 'the book belongs to the author.'"
Most good editors are also writers and as such, we always have ideas on how we would write things...better, we sometimes contend, than the author has. But that's the problem with some editors: they want your story to be written the way they would write it.
"An editor does not add to a book," said Perkins. "At best he serves as a handmaiden to an author. Don't ever get to feeling important about yourself, because an editor at most releases energy. He creates nothing."
True. We editors are here to serve. We want to help you tell your story the best way you can. Bad editors and critique groups often have an "I just don't like it" attitude, which is surely misplaced. We don't have to like it; I've edited several manuscripts that were not exactly my cup of tea (horror, sci-fi) but they weren't written for me. They were written for fans of horror and sci-fi. I'm just on board to help make them shine.
Perkins knew this better than anyone. "A writer's best work comes entirely from himself...the process is simple. If you have a Mark Twain, don't try to make him into a Shakespeare."
Perkins has said about Hemingway that he "wrote as daringly as he lived," but was "susceptible to over-correcting himself. He once told me that he had written parts of A Farewell to Arms fifty times," Perkins said, adding "Before an author destroys the natural qualities of his writing, that's when an editor has to step in."
Don't rewrite your story so many times that you just can't tell now if it's even the story you started out with or some altered version created by your doubting self. Write the story, then send it to me. I'll let you know what's working and what's not. I'll correct all those pesky little annoyances that get in the way of creative writing. I'll read every word, cross out some, suggest others and sweat it out just like you do. Then, I'll send it back for you to revise. We can discuss it. I can help you with your revisions. I'll think about it while you're thinking about it and together, we'll make it work.
Because just as every writer needs an editor, every editor needs a writer. It's symbiotic.