The Editorial Department Schema

A plan for compartmentalizing your creative writing tasks and responsibilities

Benjamin Obler
10 min readMar 22, 2021


Something complex, multifaceted, and beautiful — like you. Photo by Valentin Lacoste on Unsplash.

I want to introduce you to something I call “The Editorial Department Schema.” It’s a way to think about your fiction writing, or other creative writing work.

What’s a schema? Let’s have a look.

Definitions 1 and 2 both apply here. It’s funny that this particular dictionary app uses both vaccines and a novel as an example, in definition 1. But for us, this goes beyond a simple plan for a single work. This schema I’m talking about is, like definition 2 says, a way to manage a complex reality.

That’s what being a writer is. You’re a writer? Hey, cool, you’re part of a complex reality. Now let’s work on mediating your perceptions and guiding your responses.

This is a way to think about the elaborate set of demands and responsibilities that come with being a writer.

The idea is a simple one: do what editorial departments in publishing companies do. Compartmentalize tasks and duties. Formalize some processes. Specialize your skill sets. Divide the labor. The goal here is to feel more in control of your writing, and ultimately to let the writer do their thing in peace without undue pressure.

Here are the roles — the slices into which you will divide the pizza pie of your psyche.


In the publishing world (and not just with trade publishers who produce fiction), the top job gets the title “Publisher.” If you want to substitute “CEO,” you can. It’s perhaps more helpful, since the goal of all the individuals comprising this schema is to publish.

Think corporate. Think greed. Think power. Think of all the dysfunction you find at the top (you know you always do). The CEO is the crazy part of you, the driven part. The founder with wild dreams and big ideas. This is the aspect of yourself that makes unreasonable demands. CEO-you might be impatient, brusque, ambitious, even arrogant.



Benjamin Obler

Instructor at @GothamWriters, NYC. Ed.-in-Chief of, where fiction is the focus and inspiration is the goal. #Javascotia @PenguinBooks