In praise of editors

I like to read Timelines in the Sydney Morning Herald. It’s a section that profiles the lives of recently deceased persons of interest or note. I learn things there that often renew my faith in humanity. Or remind me of things I want to say.

On Saturday there was a piece about New York editor Larry Ashmead. He was working as an editorial assistant editing a non-fiction series called Science Study when he was asked to look over a text by Isaac Asimov (one of my favourite authors).

Ashmead said it was riddled with errors. Asimov was furious but declared that no editor had ever taken as much care with anything he had written and demanded that Ashmead edit everything else he wrote. So began a lifetime friendship.

A good editor is golden. Having recently finished the largest and hardest rewrite of my entire writing life, and having cut out more words than I think I even wrote in my first year! it’s tempting to gnash teeth at my editor. Except I am so grateful. The new version is a huge improvement and as usual she was right. I understand how Asimov felt. And I hope I too can look back on a lifetime of friendship.

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