Once, at a writer’s group meeting, I sat by a woman whose job it was to ferry out of town authors (a grand job, if ever there was one!). She and I got to speaking and she mentioned she’d escorted an author. She spoke his name in a tone that suggested I not ask the burning question (Sorry, who? I’ve never heard of him), because only an illiterate wouldn’t know who he was. She then went on to tell me of his latest work and his editing process, which he retold as, “My editor sent the changes to the manuscript. I changed everything back the way it was. She again sent edits. I again sent back the original manuscript. After the third time, she got the hint.” The woman next to me added huffily, “Really. Who thinks his work needs edits?”Again, I refrained from the obvious response, his editor, apparently.
After the meeting, and for a few days after, I asked people if they’d ever heard of this particular author. To which I received confused shakes of the head and murmured, “No, sorry.”
To recap, this “acclaimed” author who believed his work to be so precious as not to need edits, had never been heard of by anyone in my circle. Astonishing.
But the deeper issue, I believe, was the author’s arrogance when it came to his work. Everyone needs edits. Of course we do! As writers, we spend hours, days, months, years even, crafting a story. We sleep on it, think of it when we should be paying attention in the work meeting/church/class. By the time the manuscript is finished, we’re so close to the work, we’re so intimate with it, we have lost all objectivity.
That’s why there are beta readers and editors.
Fresh eyes, clear brains, inquisitive thoughts—all with a view to make our writing clear and make our story one that readers want to keep reading. Editors help us with typos, plot holes, character inconsistencies. In short, they help turn good writing into a great story.
I’m sorry for that author, for not realizing his work could’ve been made better had he listened. Maybe had he listened, his books would have connected to more readers, and his name might actually be one that people recognize.