Editing

Has the role of the editor changed in this brave new world? Twenty years ago, if you were editing stories or essays or book-length works, you had a far smaller pool of writers to draw from than you do today. You *had* to do developmental editing, I suspect, in order to get enough work of high enough quality to publish. Now, if I put out a call for submissions, I get three or four times as many subs as I would have twenty years ago. Many of those I can’t use, but the percentage of already-great pieces has gone up; I don’t need to spend as much time doing developmental editing as I used to.

There’s a hunger for content (free-ish content, preferably), as seen in online venues like the Washington Post and New York Times opinion pages, who are publishing new material daily. Their editors, I suspect, don’t have time to do a lot of developmental editing; their role, I think, has morphed to something else, something closer to a content curator. They receive a wealth of publishable quality submissions, and their job becomes one of choosing the best among them, the most pertinent, timely, unusual, striking.

Which means, for writers, that it’s on us to up our games. We have unprecedented access to publishing, in ways that would’ve been unimaginable twenty years ago. Editors and agents are available online regularly, for questions, for advice. We can self-publish our own work too. But the ocean of content is vast, and the challenge now is to rise to the surface, to send your little essay or story boat skimming along the top of those waves, so it will actually be seen and read.

In other words, maybe I better send that essay to my workshop, give it another pass and polish, before I submit it again. It was pretty good to begin with, but I imagine it could be better.

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