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  • Writer's pictureDarrell Case

An Editor should be an author’s best friend

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

In reading of Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, I found one common denominator. Their editor, Maxwell Perkins. Perkins was an extraordinary individual. From 1914 until his death in 1947, Maxwell Perkins was employed as an editor for Charles Scribner’s and Sons. With his expertise, he guided his authors to greatness.

Perkins’ talent for cutting, shaping encouraging and suggesting passages in novels made him a friend to his authors. While editors employed at other firms saw their position as an occupation, Perkins built a legacy. Through his guidance, many of the novels have stood the test of time. Among these are Look Homeward Angel, The Great Gatsby, The Sun also Rises, The Yearling and others.

For Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, his suggestion of The Yearling led to her winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1938. His insight was remarkable. Laboring long hours after his workday at Scribner’s Maxwell Perkins and Thomas Wolfe produced Of Time and the River. This novel made Wolfe a national celebrity and a legend in his own time. Perkins spent countless hours working with his authors to produce some of the greatest books in history.

Yet for all his commitment, Perkins faded into the background. By his own admission, Maxwell Perkins felt editors should be anonymous. The ones to be pushed to the forefront to receive honor were Maxwell Perkins writers and the books they authored.

So many times, we as authors view an editor as our enemy. Those who desire to cut out the art we have labored so hard to create. However, an editor’s task is very difficult. They walk a delicate line between satisfying the author and the readers. They must shape our books, making them exciting and palatable without losing the book’s music. Each novel has a tune of its own. A good editor recognizes and brings out the rhythm of making a book sing without losing the voice of the author. Therefore, if you have a good editor, be sure to thank him or her today. Together in partnership, the author and editor bring to the public their best work of art.

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