Writers often have misconceptions about the editor who has the power to accept or reject their work.
“She has no idea what a real writer goes through.”
“She gets to sit back and pass judgment in minutes while I slugged away for days to create this perfect story.”
“She’s a tough nut to crack.”
A good editor, like a good baseball coach does not need to be a brilliant player, but she must recognize talent and strive to help the writer achieve his or her highest level of excellence. To borrow terminology from baseball, I’m a ‘utility player.’ When a hole develops, I plug it. I can play all the positions with a measure of competence, but I’m not a star on the playing field.
Mice ate my three finished novels, braided plots and all, but never fear—I have four others in various stages of completion.
I write short stories—the shorter the better—in the style of O. Henry. My essays follow the same terse format. I weigh in and get out. They’re blunt, opinionated and I always hope provocative. I love to read a good rebuttal.
My published credits include a bouquet of newspaper articles and a handful of accolades from contests I’ve won, but I don’t have the ego to chase a writer's dream.
I write ad copy when Page & Spine’s creative director is otherwise engaged, but frankly I’d enjoy being a greeter at Wall-Mart more than do the grunt work involved in commercial writing.
I began my love affair with poetry later in life. Thanks to some amazingly talented poets who lavished me with encouragement and honest criticism, I won some minor contests and earned additional publishing credits. Along my learning curve, I learned a fair number of poetry forms and became competent in a few.
My writing is a personal passion, but to answer the editorial comments:
Yes, I know how hard a writer works to create a story or poem. No, I have yet to invest in fancy office furniture, and yes, I’m a hard nut to crack. I will only be satisfied when the published work meets the writer's highest potential.
An editor not only needs to understand grammar and story arcs and all poetry forms—the nuts and bolts of writing—we need to be chameleons. The editorial ear must recognize a writer’s ‘voice’ and make corrections according to the writer’s style. In other words, if a reader can tell I’ve edited your work, I haven’t done my job.
What does all this mean? For one thing, it means that I understand a writer’s sweat equity and ambitions. For another, I’m absolutely on the writer’s ‘side’ when it comes to publishing. Entertain me, inform me, make me think—and we’ll work out the bugs together so we can share your work with our readers.
And that brings me to the other hat I wear. I'm not just employed by the publisher, I am the publisher. When my accountant looks at my books and asks, “What did you do with all that money?” I can confidently reply. “I helped a few writers on their journey to success, and we entertained our readers along the way.”
copyright © 2014
N.K. Wagner is Executive Editor and Publisher of Page & Spine.