Behind every good writer is a great editor

Some of the articles I’ve written for Community News Commons practically wrote themselves and I didn’t stop typing until they were on the page. I’m usually happy with those ones.

Others didn’t flow as easily and I spent an inordinate amount of time rearranging sentences and paragraphs as well as looking up synonyms. Then I’d scrap the whole thing and the cycle would start over again.

Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” sold millions of copies and was translated into 30 languages.

“I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil,” said Truman Capote. But I’m tired of my constant revising.

I’ve frequently emailed Noah Erenberg, editor and convenor for CNC, asking him not to publish a story until I’ve changed a few things. But is the new version any better?

He cares as much about our work as we do, but editing all the stories that come in and being available to every contributor while working on other projects for The Winnipeg Foundation is a lot of work even without having a writer who is stuck on the revising track.

If I was a “real” writer who was paid, and not just a Community News Commons (volunteer) citizen journalist (CNCer for short), I’d hire an editor. Having my own honest to goodness editor sounds relaxing. I could let someone else do all the revising for me.

I like this definition from “An editor polishes and refines, he directs the focus of the story or article or movie along a particular course. He cuts out what doesn’t fit, what is nonessential to the purpose of the story. He enhances the major points, drawing attention to places where the audience should focus.” Yes, just what I need.H.G. Wells once said, “No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.” I’d definitely hope to find an editor who felt the same way. A quick google search brings up the Manitoba Editors Association (MEA).The members listed in this small association have a wealth of writing and editing experience. In addition to possessing various combinations of degrees, certificates, accreditations and life experience, they all share the key qualities of patience and attention to detail.

Working with an editor is a big commitment on both sides. I don’t know the difference between a substantive edit and a stylistic copy-edit, do you? That’s one of many questions I’d have for an editor.

Some of the common marks used by editors.

I write articles but if I’d written something longer… like a kids book, I’d look for one who enjoys editing children’s fiction and has a good track record at getting this genre published.

I’d carefully peruse the editors bios looking for that X factor; that good fit between editor and client.

And then what?

Your editor probably won’t be using a 1904 Underwood typewriter these days.

Would I send them a Microsoft Word document so they could use the review function to strike through words and add changes before sending it back to me?

Maybe they’d print out the file I emailed them, then use a highlighter pen to make changes before discussing the manuscript with me over coffee at the Strong Badger Coffeehouse.

Daria Patrie of the MEA stresses that editors are an eclectic bunch. “Some of us work in person, some mostly via phone, some of us work mostly online, some work best on paper, others electronically. It’s generally up to the editor and something we clarify with a client in the beginning.”

Anyone with a love of language and words is welcome to join the MEA. Writers, editors and freelancers generally work alone so members get together and socialize while listening to a speaker over “whine and dine” lunches periodically at the Old Spaghetti Factory.

The ‘whine’? “I believe it comes from the many complaints that editors and grammar enthusiasts have about perceived misuses of all parts of the English language and a joy in sharing those complaints with people who ‘get it’,” said Adrianne Winfield, President of the Association. She added that it would also apply to other frustrations common among freelancers.

Ernest Hemingway at work.

The $50 yearly membership gives you discounted prices to the frequent writing and editing workshops the MEA puts on. You can also attend the popular lunches for just the price of your meal. If you’re a professional editor you will also get a listing with your specializations, experience and contact information in their online directory of editors for hire.

As for me, until writing becomes a career, I’m happy to have Noah edit my work and I plan to revise less and put the fun back into my writing. After all, I wouldn’t want to write like Hemingway who said, “There is nothing to writing, all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”


aspiring freelance writer and researcher hoping for writing opportunities including copywriting/content writing jobs. You can contact me at

One response to “Behind every good writer is a great editor”

  1. Doug Kretchmer

    Great story Anne. We (CNC writers) are all very fortunate to have a great editor and mentor like Noah Erenberg. Not to mention the inspiration we get at our monthly meetings. Love the Hemingway quote. Keep up the great work.

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