I recently edited somebody’s novel. My editing was appreciated. Very much. My work as a writer was appreciated. Again very much, by the same person, who read my writings online on my webpage. I was grateful, happy, touched.
I was asked, thereafter, to comment on her novel. Now, as an editor, naturally, I had gone through the novel with a tooth-comb. I knew it better than perhaps my own writing at that moment. However, I do not think it was right for her to ask for me to comment on her novel, nor would it have been right for me to do so. After all, there are so many manuscripts I edit, and some leave me flabbergasted, some impressed, some plain tired of the effort I need to put in. The story kind of gets lost in the language to be worked upon. And I do not choose the novels I edit. So I may like a particular story or I may not like it, still, I will edit it. Every author’s writing is not my cup of tea. If I really liked a story, even then I do not think I would comment upon it, because it should not influence the author into believing that I am representative of an audience. For example, Chetan Bhagat’s writings are the rave, yet he leaves me unimpressed. I can do without his kind of stories. Now if I had perchance edited his work and if he had perchance asked for my comments, and then if I had told him my take on his writings, it may have so deflated him that he may not have sallied forth and got his work out into the market with confidence enough. And then the appreciation of so many readers would have escaped him.
I know how important it is as a writer to get positive feedback. And negative feedback may be well intentioned, but it is destroying, and I do know that it requires more than a duck’s feathered back for it to roll off easily. More than anything else, it is subjective. I may not like sci fi, then how can I appreciate anyone writing it? I have to have a particular taste, a particular inclination. So I think writers should be careful whom they ask for an opinion, and it should definitely not be that of the one who edits their manuscript. Especially if that person is a fellow writer and sympathetic to the needs and aspirations of the one whose work she is editing, but will be hard put to give an objective comment without ruffling feathers.