Authors are on a Hero’s Journey

Sophie Playle

Authors are on a hero’s journey. Their quest? To write and publish novels. Editors are the mentors who aid those heroes. And here’s why this relationship is so important.

In a typical hero’s journey, the hero sets out to change the world. It’s the same for an author. Authors change the world with their books. The hero/author is brave and determined, an inspiration to others.

But they often put too much weight of expectation on their shoulders and take on too much responsibility. This can cause them to feel isolated and alone – they believe they must do everything themselves, that it is their burden alone to bear.

And the shadow side of this? It can manifest as a kind of arrogance. They hold too tightly onto their burden, believing they alone have the ability to complete their quest.

The weight of responsibility. The feel of isolation. The struggle of knowing you are central to the success of the quest.

Being a hero is hard. Really, really hard.

But wait. Enter the mentor.

The mentor often possesses wisdom about or direct experience of the world in which the quest is taking place. They’ve studied this world. They may have even completed their own quest.

And they can use this knowledge to aid the hero.

The editor/mentor will have extensively studied their craft. They will have developed a particular set of skills that can be used to aid the hero on their journey.

These skills on their own can’t be used to complete the quest – which is why the hero is crucial.

And the hero/author has something special about them – that unique creative drive – which means they don’t have the time or inclination to have studied the skills the editor/mentor has mastered.

Just as importantly, the editor/mentor has faith in the author/hero.

They see their potential and believe in them. Without this mindset, they won’t be an effective mentor – their head and heart won’t be in the right place.

The mentor gives the hero a gift that helps them on their quest.

Sometimes this is a weapon that helps them defeat the antagonist; sometimes it’s a talisman – an item of symbolic significance that inspires the hero.

The editor/mentor gives the hero/author weapons and talismans, too – in the form of knowledge, suggestions, editorial tools and encouragement.

The relationship

By accepting the aid of the editor/mentor, the hero/author doesn’t feel alone anymore – they have someone in their corner who fully understands what they’re going through, and who believes in them.

By trusting this mentor, listening to their advice and accepting their gifts, the hero/author releases some of the arrogance that may have been hindering their progress – though they are still helming the quest.

So, authors – are you ready to accept the aid of a mentor on your quest?

And editors – are you up to the challenge?

Sophie Playleis a professional fiction editor. She specialises in developmental editing, critiquing and copy-editing, and loves working with authors and publishers who are passionate about high-quality storytelling. Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction and literary fiction are her genres of choice. She's an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and has a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway, University of London. Find out more:

Sign up to Liminal Letters

Insights into the world of fiction, from the desk of an editor

Editorial considerations, creative revelations and the occasional existential lamentation – sharing my experiences and personal recommendations exclusively with you.