Mostafa Eltelwany is an author and an editor. He is also the Content Manager at Labayh, an Arabic audio content application.
Can you define your role as an editor? What do editors do? And what don’t they do?
In my view, the role of an editor is of great importance in helping writers refine their text, preparing it for publication and readership. The editor’s primary role is to help authors achieve the best possible version of their work. They can aid in fine-tuning various aspects of the text, such as wording, plot development, or perspective.
This role is somewhat subjective, but an editor possesses a discerning eye and literary sensibility to spot issues and weaknesses within texts, offering guidance to the writer on how to address and enhance them.
It’s crucial to note that an editor should not impose their own style or vision onto the writer, nor should they meddle with the writer’s creative process. Instead, they serve as a guide, a thoughtful collaborator, and an experienced individual adept at understanding readers and the art of writing.
Do you think there are specific challenges for editors working in Arabic? Or if there are misunderstandings that authors have about the editor’s role?
Arab editors, in my opinion, face numerous challenges. To begin with, many publishers, authors, and some production companies, in my view, fail to recognize the importance of the editor’s role in developing literary texts or even understanding how they can benefit from editing, both creatively and financially, in terms of increasing sales and the like.
When I think about Arab names as editors, I can’t mention more than five prominent editors that the younger generations can follow and learn from. This is in contrast to other roles in the literary or creative field, such as prominent translators or writers, where there are more recognizable figures.
This affects the understanding of the editor’s role and the financial compensation provided to them by publishers and others in the industry.
Certainly, some publishers believe that the editor’s role is to rewrite poorly written works to make them passable in literary quality, especially if the author is famous and generates significant sales. They want an author, not an editor. However, either they don’t openly admit this, or they don’t know the difference between the two roles.
Some widely renowned authors are not fond of dealing with editors; they have trust issues, which can impact their behavior. They may either refuse to work with an editor or listen to their opinions without paying much attention.
There are also other authors who view editors as individuals who come to sabotage their work and alter its identity.
Certainly, there are many authors who understand the role of an editor and collaborate effectively with them, but I hope that their numbers will increase in the coming years.
What are the challenges of working with publishers?
All the aforementioned factors pose challenges, including financial constraints, understanding the editor’s role, and selecting the right editor for a specific book or work, among others.
In your opinion, why is developmental editing important?
I believe that developmental editing is an essential aspect of the professional creative industry. The absence of effective editorial involvement has a significant adverse impact on both the publishing and creative sectors, although it is not the sole contributing factor.
The role of a developmental editor goes far beyond assisting authors in refining their works and preparing them for publication. These editors possess a unique vision and expertise in guiding a work through all its stages and understanding how to present it effectively to the intended audience.
Many authors are not well-acquainted with their target readership and may resist considering their audience during the writing process or before publication, fearing it might compromise the artistic integrity of their work, pushing it toward a purely commercial direction. However, in my opinion, the importance of developmental editing extends deeper, encompassing a broader spectrum of creative endeavors. Ultimately, we write for others before we write for ourselves.
What are your most and least favorite parts of the job?
Every new text I encounter presents an exciting challenge for me. It represents a new discovery, not only for myself but for the world and the author as well. Assisting an author in reaching a point of development they couldn’t have imagined is a great achievement for me. Discussions and exploration of the text and its worlds bring me immense joy.
What’s even more important to me is when I work with an intelligent and adaptable writer who understands my role well and delivers a captivating text. It makes me the happiest person on Earth, someone who feels that their job is the most beautiful thing in the world.
What doesn’t please me? There’s nothing specific, but I believe some of the challenges I mentioned earlier with certain authors and publishers are not to my liking at all.