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"Sometimes, it’s OK or indeed necessary to leave a bit of wrongness in": Brendan Barrington

From Irish Times feature on editors >>>
Brendan, you have a reputation as a brilliant, but brutally honest, editor. Do you tailor your approach to each writer, in the sense that you think some writers can take more criticism than others? Do you ever worry that your work might be too intrusive?
BB: When I was very young, I underestimated the distinctiveness of each text and each author; my editing was a bit one-size-fits-all, a bit overconfident. With experience I think I’ve got better at recognising the relationship between what is wrong with a text and what is good about it: sometimes, it’s OK or indeed necessary to leave a bit of wrongness in. The editor’s job is to help the author make the text as strong as it can be, and there are as many ways of doing that as there are authors – so, yes, you tailor your approach to individual texts and personalities. When editing, I try to avoid anything that comes across as pure criticism, pitting the text against some objective standard. My approach is more one of identifying elements that do not quite fit with the scheme and the implicit rules established by the author himself or herself elsewhere in the text, and trying to point the author towards solutions. This has always, from my perspective anyway, been a very straightforward process with Greg, because (unlike many good writers) he has an excellent editorial mind himself.

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