books aren’t just what we do, they’re who we are

Ask Daphne! Will editing get in the way of my writing career?

Jez asks:

I’m a young aspiring writer & I’m also working through college. My intent is to be a YA writer & I’ve almost finished my first novel now. I love writing, but I know that it’s a hard thing to survive on until you make it big, and a lot of authors never make it that far. Which is why I’m going to college, of course. Lately I’ve started to think about maybe becoming an editor of some sort, even if I’m really low on the publishing food chain. I think I’d be good at it & enjoy it because one of my favorite parts of writing–strangely enough–is editing, which most writers detest. I love being able to go through and reword sentences and check for grammar and punctuation; I’m weird like that. But my only problem with pursuing this is that I do want to become a writer & I was wondering if you thought this would get in the way of that? Would it take too much time away from my writing to allow me to get anywhere?

First of all, Jez, way to go in planning an alternative career! You’re absolutely right that most writers can’t survive on just their writing, and having a backup plan will not only help put food on your table and shoes on your feet, but I’m sure it’ll make your parents happy as well!

And if you love the nitty-gritty aspects of editing, it sounds like you’ve figured out a fantastic career path. But once you get into the editorial side of publishing, are you stuck there?

Oh, heck no! Just take a look at the careers of YA writers Aimee Friedman, Claudia Gabel, and David Levithan, just to name a few of the editor/writers out there.

There’s tons more, but I was recently at a reading by Aimee, Claudia, and David, so they spring to mind first! These three, and many other editors, burn the candle at both ends — writings their own novels while editing others. Something for their own publishing house, sometimes for other houses. And there’s lots more writers who’ve working in publishing in the past – even our own Maureen Johnson put in her time as an editor. While being inside the publishing world will give you a nice insight into the process, you should still bear in mind that working in that world isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get published yourself. You still need to write a great book, and get it into the hand of the right editor, so good luck with that!

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