They can when they set their egos aside. Editors and writers deny their discord is ego-driven. But writers complain about text changes, which often are necessary. And editors routinely revise text without considering the writer’s intent, style or right to discuss changes.
Writers who bristle at the thought of someone “touching” their text and editors who rewrite for the sake of rewriting suffer from “ego interference.”
Writers and editors can get along when they start acting like partners instead of competitors. Their shared goal is producing great content for readers — the people who matter most in this business. And they understand and respect each other’s role in the process.
How to Get Along
Do the mechanical fixes: flag typos, misspellings, grammatical errors and syntax problems. On substance and word choice, talk with the writer before you edit. Find out the writer’s intention for handling a topic a certain way or setting a particular tone. Share your ideas for rewrites that make the text more engaging and easier to read. Ask the writer to clarify confusing concepts, words or phrases.
Get familiar with the writer’s style. This task might be easier with business writers and other nonfiction authors because their styles are usually straightforward. Fiction writers are freer to adopt a personal style, so their work is more challenging to edit. In either case, don’t impose your style preference on writers.
Write your first draft. Then leave it alone for several hours or a day, if you have the time. You’ll return to the draft with a fresh perspective. Now you can rework the text with the clarity and accuracy every good piece of writing should have.
Pretend you’re a stage actor and your editor is the director. If the “director” feels the need to “prep” you before you “go on stage” — that is, before the rest of the world sees your work and all its imperfections — let it happen.
Editors make writers look good and writers make editors’ work easier when both cooperate. So, yes, writers and editors really can get along.