Can editors really make a difference for writers? Especially for good writers? Stephen Hawking seems to think so and has publicly given an editor much of the credit for the success of his best-selling book A Brief History of Time.
In an interview published last week in the Wall Street Journal, Hawking describes the relationship he had with Peter Guzzardi, an editor at Bantam Books “who took his job very seriously.” Hawking’s goal was to write a book that would explain to nonscientists how the universe operates, and he says Guzzardi pushed him to reach that goal.
“Each time I sent him a rewritten chapter, he sent back a long list of objections and questions. At times I thought the process would never end. But he was right: It is a much better book as a result.”
Hawking says Guzzardi also suggested a key change to the title of the book.
“My original title was From the Big Bang to Black Holes: A Short History of Time, but my editor Peter Guzzardi turned it around and changed Short to Brief. It was a stroke of genius and must have contributed to the success of the book.”
It’s not always obvious what editors do, and it’s not always easy to explain how editors can help writers make their work better. So it’s fun to get a peek into one such relationship and nice to know that even Stephen Hawking needs an editor.