11:04:05 pm on
Tuesday 17 Jul 2018

Writer versus Editor
AJ Robinson

When you’re an author, your written works are your babies. This is especially true in my case, being a man. As I am not well suited, biologically, for childbirth, creating life through my writing is as close as I can get to the reproductive process.


Writers often intensely dislike editors.

My books, my scripts and short stories are my offspring. Created from the very essence of my being, I love them almost as much as I love my human daughter, Alexa. That, of course, is why I hate editors.

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to have several books published. I love most aspects of the process: designing the cover, writing the back cover blurb, despite it being rather tedious and difficult, and talking of the book with everyone and anyone that’ll listen to me.

I don’t like one part, editing the book! I’ve heard it said that when you write, you do it from the heart; when it comes time to edit, you have to do that from the head and that sucks. “William Faulkner, the American writer,” said Timothy Hallinan, himself a best-selling author, “wrote drunk and edited during a hangover.”

I can never edit my own writing. That is akin to cutting my hair with a chainsaw. So, off goes my manuscript to the company editor and I wait to hear from him, her or it.

The wait is as being on death row. You’re waiting for either the priest to give you last rites or a call from the governor saying a pardon has come through. Either way, you’re facing an uncertain future.

Then, finally, your baby returns and you weep. These days, with programs, such as Word, an editor can turn on the “Track Changes” and “Comment” features. This way, you get your book with red marks and comment bubbles all over it; notes up the ying-yang!

It’s a double-edged sword. I like when my editor catches errors, such as in spelling, grammar and syntax as well as over used words and phrases. Those are fine. Those are great. Such copyediting helps help become a better writer.

When the editor starts to work on the structure of my story, they plot points, dialogue, character and location descriptions or my exciting action, is when a knife thrusts deep into my soul.

An editor can make matters worse by twisting that knife. Now, I know they’re only doing their job and I appreciate and understand all that they do, but sometimes they cut deeply. Right to the bone goes the cut.

All my lovely descriptions, the dialogue that took hours, sometimes days, to get just right, and my colorful prose, all of these things they hack and slash to nothingness. Sometimes they think a plot point is a cliché. Sometimes something isn’t clear and they feel I need more of a description. Sometimes they want me to be more circumspect, as I’m being too obvious. Then there are parts of the story the editor doesn’t like. This is especially true these days, with publishers being concerned about offending any group.


A sensitive content issue.


I had to deal with this issue myself when I was writing a memoir for my parents. As it takes place in World War II and my father was in the US Army, there was the issue of segregation. Integration was not part of the military, at the time.

On top of that, a great many of the comrades, of my father, were from the South, which meant most of them had extreme views on race relations. I had to decide how to portray that. Should I have the men call the Black troops “Black”? That didn’t make sense, as that word was not in common use. Yet, I couldn’t have they use the “N-word,” which would be offensive, today. I compromised. I used “Colored,” which was the official military designation.

In terms of editing, I sometimes have quite the lively debates with my editor regarding how to resolve an issue. There’s a great deal of give and take, although I often feel as if it’s a case of I give and they take. My poor baby butchered, not unlike a child apart by bickering parents, in a messy divorce!


The goal is to publish.

It’s all part of the publishing process. If you’re ever lucky enough to publish, editing is just another painful aspect of getting your work into print. That is what truly makes it all worthwhile.

When you hold your “baby” in your arms, it’s the next best thing to being a real father.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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