Billionaire Writer Declines Editorial Help

I recently came across this entry on the blog of Dragonfly Editorial making the case of why all writers, no matter how great they are, need great editors to tighten and improve their work. See if you agree:

“Matthew Baldwin at Defective Yeti has apparently been reading my mind. He recently wrote about his dismay that J.K. Rowling’s fourth and fifth books in the Harry Potter series, The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix, appeared to have received little to no editing. As Baldwin puts it, the two books: … were released at the height of [Rowling’s] popularity, and it was clear that no one dared edit The Sacred Word of Potter; as the result, the books were long, rambling, unfocused, and boring.

I’d stop short of saying the books were boring; however, I found it painful to find bloated narrative diluting what had previously been clean, lively writing — a sure sign that Ms. Rowling had succumbed to the same famous-author-no-longer-needs-an-editor syndrome that had taken down Anne Rice.

I found myself wishing that when Ms. Rowling had turned in her manuscript, a tough but kindly gentleman editor had sat down with her and said (in a British accent, of course): “See here, J.K., this is a lovely first draft, but you’ve got to cut it by at least a third. Go back to the basics, darling! Ask yourself sentence by sentence, can this be tighter? Can this be cut? Can this go away completely?”

No matter how good a writer is, no matter how brilliant the words, copy must be edited to make it clean, clear, and concise. There simply is no question about it. And writers who are offended by this step in the process are probably in the wrong profession.