Editors are not arbiters of taste

My reading tastes have changed over the years. I like to think it’s because I’m an adventurous reader constantly stretching my boundaries, but it’s more likely that I am easily swayed by marketing trends and literary fashion.

In the nineties I was crazy for expansive meandering literature, which was lucky since there was so much of it about – Jeanette Winterson, Isabelle Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez to name a few. I can’t be bothered with all that pondering now, I prefer my prose stripped back and economical, not in a super-dry Carveresque way, but a beautifully crafted style that tells just as much as I need to know.

Why am I telling you this? Because I have to be aware of my tastes and make sure I don’t impose them on the writers I work with. It’s also important that I have a good handle on the genre or style of their writing. I usually ask a writer what books they would like theirs to sit next in a bookshelf. If they name a book or author I don’t know, I’ll read at least a few chapters to get a feel for what they are aiming for, or are inspired by.

Editing is not about imposing tastes, it’s about helping the book fulfill its potential, and making sure it’s right for its readers. The editor is on your team.