In a lovely case of synchronicity, the Smart Bitches Who Read Trashy Books have a post on the same topic I was puzzling over on the bus this morning: How much creative freedom should an author have? At what point should the editor have the right to say no? Herewith, my thoughts:
The public wants unique, brave and insightful books. We do not want pandering crap.
An author can only create a unique, brave and insightful book if they are given the freedom and authority to write whatever they wish.
However, the public also does not want self-serving drivel.
This is a bit of a subtle issue, but I've decided where I think the editor has to step in.
A writer can write exclusively for themselves; that's fine. However, if a writer wants to be published, then they have to be writing something other people will enjoy reading. Everything else stays in the box under the bed, nice and private.
The writer uses their own talent and instinct to create those wonderful, accessible books, so they have a right to both their ego and to bulldoggishness regarding their vision. However, the writer is still applying their skills to the problem of giving others what they want, and that's not a selfish endeavour.
It's like the difference between sex and masturbation. The former entails caring about the other person's pleasure also. The latter can be completely selfish.
I think the editor's job is to tell the author when they've stopped making love and started masturbating.
What do you think? Where, on the spectrum that has editor-eschewing egomaniacs on one end and spineless critique-group-junkies on the other, should the editor's experience trump the writer's artistic vision?