One of the biggest early-career challenges for many professional writers is learning how to get along with editors. It doesn’t have to be hard — just keep in mind what editors need.
Editors need to know what to expect and when to expect it. Sure, they may want some other stuff, but this is what they really need.
Don’t forget that professional writing is a craft. You and your editor both are crafting a product for sale, and the editor needs to stick to a schedule for producing that product, packaging it and shipping it to market. This is a repugnant concept for some writers, but don’t let sentimentality about the writer’s life set you up to be blindsided when your story idea is rejected, your job is eliminated or your publication goes out of business. If you can keep your head screwed on straight and remember that you’re manufacturing a product, you’ll be better off. You’ll also have fewer conflicts with editors who have their own deadlines to meet and bosses to satisfy.
So, then, two tips that will go a long way toward helping writers get along with editors:
1. Be reliable. Always strive to be a better writer, a better craftsman. But remember that over the course of your career, you’ll probably be a journeyman longer than you’ll be a master. Most editors would rather work with a journeyman who always delivers on time than with a master who blows deadlines.
2. Be honest. Don’t surprise your editor with bad news at the last minute. As soon you know something isn’t working out with your piece, say so. The two of you may be able to implement a backup plan and still make deadline. At the very least, your editor will have more time to fill the hole with something else.
Establishing a good working relationship with an editor can’t be completely reduced to two tips, of course, and every writer-editor relationship is different. But do keep these ideas in mind. I hope they’ll serve you well.