Magazine Writing: The Curse of Tom Wolfe
The stories read as if written by an author who had been left alone; the best work seldom shows an editor’s hand. But that is an illusion. Good work often has undetectable editor’s fingerprints all over it — undetectable because much of the editing happens not on the page, but before so much as a word is written. The work in bringing an ambitious story to life is a task that no writer should have to pursue alone. Many prefer the solitude. Many also prefer that the first drafts be left untouched. Dream on.
But most writers I know will admit, even grudgingly, how they long for an editor with whom they can talk, about distilling an idea or question, about the path to answering that question (read: reporting), and about the best way to tell the tale. This is, of course, a tricky dance in that writers desire both to be left to do what they want and to know that they have a hand to hold when they get lost. To pursue a story without risking getting lost is to preclude the possibility of real discovery. Getting lost, then, is a good thing, but only when there is someone at your back with a flashlight.