This was my graduate exam paper for the publishing program at Portland State University.
Conflicts, Contradictions, & Advantages of both Writing and Editing
Frequently editors are writers, and writers are editors. Every author has a distinctive, unique voice. It is crucial for an editor who also writes to refrain from intruding on an author’s voice and also refrain from warping her own authorial voice when she sets aside someone else’s manuscript and writes her own work. Someone who both writes and edits confronts many challenges and opportunities by interconnecting the two occupations.
Every time a student participates in a creative writing workshop, he or she is both an editor and a writer; the same goes for anyone who teaches such classes. When I was an undergraduate, I loved creative writing workshops and acted as if I were the teacher when giving other students feedback on their writing. Especially in fiction workshops, I carefully went over the entire document, making comments and corrections as I went, and then I wrote a long paragraph at the end of the story. This is developmental editing. The only sort of teaching I could ever see myself doing is teaching creative writing workshops. Until the publishing program accepted me at PSU, I didn’t realize I could be an editor instead of a writing teacher, yet do essentially the same work.
The developmental editor for fiction writing, playwriting, or screenwriting must be familiar with how plot and character development work. What better way to familiarize yourself with these elements than by writing? The more fiction an author/editor has written, the more she will understand what another author is doing or attempting. I started writing fiction when I was eleven years old (not that my early stories were any good, but at least I wrote them); I didn’t start developmentally editing other writers’ work until I was in college, and by then I was thoroughly accustomed to story writing and the structure that often comes unbidden.
Additionally, writing regularly helps an editor with other types of editing, not only developmental and substantial editing. If an author self-edits out of habit and has been doing so for years, the process comes somewhat naturally (assuming the author hasn’t been making the same mistakes…