Thursday, September 12

The 3 People in Every Writer

In every writer, there are 3 people, 3 distinct characters.  These are:

  1. The Writer
  2. The Reader
  3. The Editor

These 3 people have totally different personalities, and some of them don't get along!  It's a good idea to get to know them and their unique differences so that you can work with them productively.  

I would also strongly encourage you to think of a face that you could give to these 3 people, to help you to separate them and understand their different needs and roles.  


The writer is a free-spirited, creative, imaginative, wondrous person.  This person writes down everything they think and feel.  They need the freedom to say whatever they want.  

I like to think of my writer as Julia Child.  She is free, funny, and fearless, with a booming laugh!  She isn't afraid to make a mess or laugh at her mistakes.  


The reader devours books.  This person learns from studying the work of other writers.  They feed their creative soul with words and have a clear idea of what sort of thing they like to read about.  A helpful motto for the reader is "write the book that you want to read".  

This is the face that the editor makes
when he sees bad grammar

The editor is the polar opposite of the writer.  While the writer needs to space to go crazy with their feelings, the editor is a strict and grim-faced person who knows the rules and enforces them.  

It's a bad idea to have these two in the same room together, because they don't get on at all!  The editor can be hyper-critical and plain heartless!  They come armed with red pens.  It is their job to cut, reword and generally prune the imaginative mess that the writer made into an excellent story.  

It's fun to see the editor as a wise, stern, old soul.  Take Gandalf for example.  He's still loveable, but he gets the job done and isn't afraid to do the hard thing (delete bits the writer likes!)  


These 3 people are 3 roles that every writer has to play at some point.  By creating a strong separation between and unique face for each of them, it makes it much easier to realise what they need.  
  • The writer needs to be free to write anything they think and feel.
  • The reader needs to read and consider what they like to read.
  • The editor needs to look at the writing with a critical eye and heartlessly edit it.  
The writer and editor are the most important to separate because neither can do their job properly while the other is involved.  
  • The writer needs space to make mistakes and get messy, so if your editor turns up while they're working, the writer's creativity is stifled and they feel self-conscious.
  • The editor needs to separate from the writer's enthusiasm and emotional connection with the work in order to perform the difficult task of cutting and editing.  You can't edit properly when the writer is complaining about you tampering with their work!
It really does help to give these 3 people a face and character that you understand well.  

This is particularly helpful when you're writing for a deadline.  When you're rushing, the roles of the writer and editor often get horribly mixed up, and the result is usually not very good writing!

I hope that this is helpful.  Already, I'm noticing how much more proficient I am now that I am keeping this concept in mind.  Take care.  

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