Editing Vs. Writing: Which One Is Harder?

There is a never-ending war raging between writers and editors — writers say editors are constantly crushing their immaculate vision into generic slime and editors say writers are terrible at the most basic concepts of grammar. When we compare the difficulty of editing versus writing…who’s right? As someone who works as both a writer and editor, I feel like I’m uniquely positioned to settle this maddening infighting once and for all.

Working as a Writer:

Pros:

• You feel massive relief when an editor points out a glaring typo or continuity problem, saving you from endless embarrassment and attacks on your character in the comments section

• You don’t have to obsess over punctuation or spelling because that’s not your job (Editor’s Note: Yes, yes, it is)

• You submit your article at 3 p.m. and head home at 5 p.m., gleeful in the knowledge that the copy editor will be poring over it and its peripherals until well past 11 that night while you do shots at the club

• Seeing your beautiful, shiny piece in print or online with your byline splashed across the top

• Getting inspired/feeling proud/learning how to improve your technique based on an editor’s feedback

• Getting all the credit when people love it

Cons:

• You feel horrified when an editor points out a glaring typo or continuity problem and spend the next three days in mourning (“Why the !@#$ didn’t I catch that?”)

• When you live in a different time zone than your editor and they call you at 2 a.m. to confirm something

• The publication you’re writing for has downsized and expects you to edit your own piece

• That feeling of irritation when an editor changes something you know is wrong and having to fight to make sure no one changes it back once you fix it

• That feeling of irritation when an editor makes a superficial change, as if they just needed to remind themselves that what they do is important (“Was it really necessary to change ‘angry’ to ‘mad’? Seriously?”)

• That feeling of irritation when an editor changes something major in the structure of your piece and doesn’t explain why

• That feeling of irritation when an editor changes something major in the structure of your piece and their reasoning is, “Well it just sounds better, doesn’t it?”

• When your writing is amazing and thorough but it’s way over the word count limit

• Finding out your article got cut from the final print edition

• Finding out your article got pushed back three full months

• Having a heart attack because you just wrote 5,000 words that didn’t suck, your computer crashed, and none of it saved

• Sending invoices and keeping track of all the people who still owe you

• Spending hours carefully reading your final proof line by line, spotting a typo, asking for it to be fixed, and the typo is still there in the published version

• Spending hours carefully reading your final proof line by line and missing a typo

• Spending hours carefully reading your final proof line by line and finding it immaculate only for the editorial team to decide to make a last-minute change that introduces a typo (or typos, God help you)

• Editor creates a headline that totally misrepresents your piece and sends the trolls coming for your wig even though they never read the article

• Editor reworks your piece so your original point is buried or absent and the trolls come for your wig because they did read the article

• Getting all the blame when people hate it

• People asking you to work for free

Working as an Editor:

Pros:

• That proud feeling when you catch a glaring typo or continuity problem

• That proud feeling when the writer is happy with your editing and agrees their final product is better for it

• Getting paid to read cool stuff that you would’ve wanted to read anyway

• Seeing a book or magazine you edited on a store shelf and preening like a proud auntie (“Aww, look at my baby!”)

• Collaborating with cool, friendly people with amazing ideas

• Feeling inspired to write and edit better because of your awesome clients

• No fame or glory (this is a pro for me, anyway)

Cons:

• Finding something cringeworthy and/or culturally insensitive and panicking about how to point it out to the writer in a nonjudgmental way

• Suggesting a crucial change that the writer ignores

• Knowing your job security is shaky at best because no one actually knows how much/what you do

• That horrible feeling of skimming right over a typo in the first pass but catching it last minute in the second (whew!)

• Having to cut 500 words from a 1,500-word article 10 minutes before the print deadline because some famous person died and bumped your story off the front page

• Spending three hours editing an article only to find out it got cut at the last minute

• Sending invoices and keeping track of all the people who still owe you

• No fame or glory so people think you’re expendable

• Staring at the computer screen for so long you can’t remember what day it is

• Reading a client’s novel that blows your mind and thinking, “Why can’t I do that?” 🙁

• Forgetting to turn your Track Changes back on

• Having a heart attack because you just edited 100 pages and none of it saved

• Staring into space for long periods of time trying to figure out which style guide you’re supposed to be using at the moment

• Never being able to enjoy a pulpy blockbuster ever again because your over-analytical brain picks every plot beat apart

• Spending so much time editing and adapting to other people’s voices that you can’t figure out how to make words work for your own writing

• People asking you to work for free

Winner:

Nobody. The Readers. There are bad apples in every bunch, but when someone publishes writing without a good editor looking at it, we all notice. And editors wouldn’t have jobs without writers. So to the readers, on behalf of both writers and editors, I say, “Thank you” and “You’re welcome.”

Posted in Editing, Writing

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