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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > July 2017 > THE EDITOR knows best

THE EDITOR knows best

With a view from both sides of the desk, editor turned novelist Anna Pitoniak offers a unique insight into the mistakes writers make and how to avoid them

Because I’m an editor by day, and a novelist by night (and by morning, and by weekend), one of the questions I get asked most frequently is: has being an editor made you a better writer?

The short answer is: yes. The slightly longer answer is: yes, absolutely. In fact, for me, working as an editor was the main thing that gave me the courage to tackle writing a book. When I began working at Random House many years ago, I had a simmering desire to write – but I often felt too intimidated and illequipped to try writing an entire novel. I didn’t know where to begin.

As an editor, it is your job to understand why a book works, or why it doesn’t. The book may run as smoothly as a well-oiled sports car by the time a reader has it in her hands, but before it reaches that point, an editor has spent many hours peering under the hood of the machine, looking for problems and possibilities. Once I had got my hands dirty with editing, I felt less intimidated by the prospect of picking up the pen (or turning on the laptop) and starting. I still didn’t know where to begin – but now I knew that didn’t matter. No one really knows where to begin. You just have to start.

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About Writing Magazine

How do you follow up one of the biggest books of the decade? The Girl on the Train author Paula Hawkins tells us about changing tracks and writing the book that matters to you in our star interview. What do editors want? There can't be anyone in a better position to tell you than debut novelist Anna Pitoniak, who worked as a Big Five editor before landing her book deal. How is your year's writing plan going? As 2017 hits the halfway mark, we help you stay on target. Look for leads, find the most up-to-date markets for your work and enter the latest writing competitions, with more than £50,000 in writing prizes, in the Writers' News pages, packed with news you can use.

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