Blog, Journalism, Teaching, Writing

The Snow-Covered Editor-Writer Relationship

This weekend, my mom got on me about not shoveling the snow off my driveway after the Midwest was pummeled with 12 inches of winter wonderland-ness. My response? “We have 4-wheel drive. Why do we need to shovel?”

I’ll spare you with the ‘you should think of others’ lecture I received after she tried to pull her little car in my driveway and move on to what the conversation inspired me to think about – Editor and Writer Relationships.

So often, editors get frustrated and overwhelmed by what they think writers lack. The common thoughts include “They should know AP style as well as I do” or “Why can’t writers just spout off a lead like I do?”

The reality is that every writer has his or her own strengths – just as editors do. The problem is that we tend to get caught up in a narrow “I do everything right – they do everything wrong” snow-covered mindset.

Since I teach writing and advise a student newspaper, I view every moment of the writing and editing process as a learning opportunity. Writers are learning and yes, they should improve as they write more, but they also need coaching. If an editor is unwilling to coach and a writer is unwilling to listen (or even acknowledge constructive criticism), the result is not going to pretty … or productive.

Editors – if you don’t like the lead, show the writer how to improve it. Writers – if you don’t like seeing endless drafts with bloody, red marks, inquire about what you need to improve. It’s not about who wins the battle – it’s about what is best for the publication and the readers.

The relationship will only improve with work from both sides. Even though it is not always fun in the beginning, I guarantee that as both parties work together, the story will improve. And … you just might reduce your stress level the next time you work together.

The editor-writer relationship is similar to the relationship I have with my mom. She gives me her advice (or order) and I mull it over – sometimes irritated, other times oblivious to the truth in her message. But ultimately, I have to weigh whether or not her message has merit, if it will improve who I am and the actions I take.

And now, I will reluctantly go shovel my driveway because unfortunately, not everyone has 4-wheel drive.



– Shannon Philpott
Blog Entry: Jan. 23, 2011

© Shannon Philpott, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Shannon Philpott and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


3 thoughts on “The Snow-Covered Editor-Writer Relationship”

  1. Very thoughtful of you Shan, especially since it might be easier to get the refrigerator in with the snow cleared, but on the other hand, it is warmer during the days this week and the snow is melting.

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