Are we Editors?

By November 18, 2013Peer Writing Tutoring

I bet that if you ask anyone at the UCWbL that question, they would say “No!” without any hesitation or thought. Writing Tutors don’t edit obviously, we are peers who work with writers to help make them better writers. It is a truth universally acknowledged that we aren’t editors; oh those appropriating scoundrels who strike fear into the hearts of writers with their red pen! We aren’t editors. Or are we?

This whole argument is based on the assumption that the only thing that editors do is correct grammar and spelling errors, but this takes aM64271354e1a9fb05d059285e69e075f6 very narrow view.

Nowhere in any definition that I could find of either edit or editor implied any limitation concerned with solely correcting grammar or spelling errors. There are certain definitions and connotations that sit within our collective cultural consciousness about what exactly it means to edit something, but the relationship between writers and editors is much more complex and meaningful than any assumptions or connotations suggest.

Editors have almost nothing to do with correcting things like comma splices and whether or not to use a semicolon (you can just read the Chicago Manual of Style if that is all you wanted) but are instead, extremely dedicated to making the work that they are editing the best piece of writing it can possibly be.

So in that way, we are very much like editors. I doubt that there is a single person working at the UCWbL who doesn’t get invested in the work of the writers they meet with. Personally I know that I always want the best for my writers, even when I only meet with them once. And I would wager that Writing Fellows get even more attached to their writers because they work with them consistently.

Writers are pretty important in the writing process, but editors are arguably even more important. It is not a coincidence that The Great Gatsby and The Sun also Rises had the same editor. The inexplicable rising popularity of self-publishing is evidence of this fact. You don’t have to look far on the Internet before you find a trove of self-published works of writing, in fact, e-book stores like Amazon are FULL of independently published writing. And while there are always exceptions, you aren’t going to find the next classic novel among self-published books. The problem with the self-publishing system is that it allows for anyone with the big enough budget to become a published author despite their writing ability, and all without the tyranny of editors. Some see this as writers being freed from the oppression of the gate-keeping publishing industry. This could not be more wrong.

Editors and publishers aren’t gatekeepers or devious executives trying to censor writers, they work closely with them, creating close relationships, giving tailor-made feedback to them in order to make both the piece of writing and the writer, better.  Does that sound familiar?