Impostor Syndrome in Writing

pencil-918449_1920There’s this thing called “Impostor Syndrome“, which is essentially when someone is unable to accept that they are skilled or competent in a given area regardless of any achievements or accomplishments that prove otherwise.

People who suffer from it are able to acknowledge their successes, but attribute them to luck or good timing, without being able to take credit for their success personally. They are, in short, incapable of giving credit where credit is due when they are on the receiving end of said credit.

And while there is debate over whether or not it should even be classified as a syndrome, or whether it should even be considered a problem seeing as a massive number of people admit to experiencing it, I think it’s still a valid point of conversation, especially when it comes to my fellow writers.

During my career, I have come across writers of all kinds. There are writers who are beyond confident in their abilities (and who won’t let you forget just how good they are), and there are writers who will quietly and carefully outwrite their peers while refusing to acknowledge their real skills. The rest generally fit somewhere in between.

After training, reviewing, and working with so many writers over the years, I think that I can safely say that the writers I have met who undersell their abilities, the ones who question their competency, are the ones who create the strongest content. It is the writers who still believe they have room to learn and to grow, who take feedback and apply it in earnest, who become the masters.

One of the things I look for when hiring a writer is their ability to take edits without letting their ego get involved because those who can take critiques are the ones who are willing to keep honing their skills, regardless of their level of education or how many years of experience they have.

Even though I have come across a lot of writers who are convinced that they are the next big thing, it’s the ones who have at least a touch of Impostor Syndrome (or self-doubt) that actually go on to do great things.

While confidence is important, letting it overshadow your willingness to learn and to expand as a writer will only stunt your professional growth and keep you from becoming better.

I think a lot of us probably suffer from Impostor Syndrome to some degree, especially when it comes to our writing. Hell, I go to work every day and wonder how someone ever thought it was a good idea to put me in charge of a content team. But then I remember that it wasn’t an accident and that, as far as I know, no bribes were involved in the process.

While you should never let self-doubt take over or keep you from writing, letting go of your ego and accepting that there is probably always going to be a way to improve your content or your skills is often what separates the good writers from the great ones.

In short, a little self-doubt is probably normal and healthy. Too much or too little and you end up crippling your skills.

To find a happy balance, be open to edits and feedback. Take time to look over your own writing and consider where you think your weaknesses are. Remember that writing is subjective and that it’s important to find a balance between the technical and creative aspects of a piece of content in order to make it shine.

 

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How to Make a Professional Portfolio Without Work Experience

How to Make a Professional Portfolio Without Work ExperienceWe are all aware of the vicious circle that new grads and professionals face—employers want you to have work experience before they will hire you, but you can’t get a job without having experience in your chosen industry.

So, how are you supposed to get work as a writer if you can’t get experience anywhere?

It’s time to use one of those writerly tools that you have hidden away in your back pocket—your creativity. If you can’t find work to put in your portfolio, you’re just going to have to make some for yourself. Because the writing industry is booming with non-fiction postings right now, I’ll focus on how to build your portfolio as an online content creator.

To start, you’re going to have to do some writing that will showcase your skills, whether you’re getting paid for it or not. As someone who has been part of the hiring process for a number of writers, I can tell you that we like to see a variety of pieces, but prefer when at least one is tailored to our industry.

So if you can’t find paid or volunteer work, or what you have done isn’t necessarily relevant or appropriate for the jobs you are applying for, you need to start creating content specifically for your portfolio. That means writing for the sole purpose of having pieces to show potential employers.

Based on what I would want to see, potential topics include:

  • Tech content related to new products, services, news, and more. Pick something that you want to know more about so that at least you are learning something new while writing.
  • Real estate content about landlords, renters, the housing market, DIY projects, selling and buying tips, and first-time buyer and credit information. This is stuff you’re going to have to know at some point anyway, why not start now?
  • Small business and entrepreneurship posts about startups, employment, marketing, and anything in between. You’re basically doing that now if you are trying to start a freelance career, so write about your personal experiences.
  • Industry news and changes related to the places you are hoping to be hired at. Don’t be so specific that you can only use one piece per application, make your content general enough that you can show it to a variety of employers.
  • Writing and editing advice and tips. Show off your skills by working your way towards becoming an influencer in the industry. You can cover things like the technical aspects or talk more about creating a company voice and language.
  • Digital marketing trends. Generally, employers hiring writers now want them to know about SEO and other content-based technicalities. Write about how SEO works, how to use it best, and why it is important.

Aside from writing about these topics, make sure that you showcase your abilities in being a versatile writer. Switch up the type of posts that you are making by writing in a variety of ways, such as:

  • List posts
  • Case studies
  • How-tos
  • Short-form posts
  • Whitepapers
  • Sales focused content
  • SEO heavy pieces

And make sure that you follow best online writing practices with your content, whether you are sending it as a digital attachment or printing it out. That means that you need to make sure that you:

  • Have titles and headers.
  • Break up big chunks of content.
  • Follow best linking practices (specifically regarding anchor text).
  • Use bullet lists.
  • Avoid multiple fonts and overusing bold and italics.
  • Cite sources.
  • Never, ever plagiarize.

Although you aren’t going to be able to say that you wrote this content for a popular website or other online publication, your desire to showcase your skills shows both initiative and determination.

It also shows that, regardless of your lack of experience in the industry, you are fully capable of creating quality content, and that you really do know what you are doing.

Just make sure that you edit carefully and that your samples really are well done. To get an idea of what your dream employer wants in terms of content, spend some time looking around their blog to get a feel for their style and tone before you apply. That will help you to figure out which pieces are best to send them.

And don’t forget to switch up your style between pieces. It’s nice to see versatile writers who can go from sleek, enticing copy, to informational guides, to casual blog posts.

Once you feel that you have enough content, create a digital or printed portfolio, and show recruiters and hiring managers that you have what it takes.

Do you have a portfolio? Do you find it hard to get work as a writer?

I’m on Facebook if you want more.

Stop Publishing Typos

 

book-731199_1920If I had a nickel for every time I heard a self-published author excuse their typos due to being unable to afford a professional editor, I would have at least $5.00 by now.

While a manuscript with one or two errors is passable, there’s no reason to send something out into the world that a grade school English teacher would cringe at. Seriously, enough with the half-finished manuscripts, people.

Not being able to afford an editor is no excuse to send a hack-job of a manuscript out into the world—doing so can have even bigger repercussions than just firing up the self-proclaimed grammar Nazis of the online world. Publishing content with multiple errors and mistakes hurts your personal brand and will almost definitely affect your success as a writer.

How? Think of it this way—you, as a writer, are like a business. Your words are what you use to market yourself, from your back cover copy to your query emails. Just like a business, you need to be aware of how you present yourself to the public, whether it’s just a small group of other authors, or you are self-publishing through Amazon. If you present yourself as an author who publishes half-finished content, that is exactly how you will be seen. Just as if a business were to sell damaged products at a discount. Sure, people would buy them, but that business would

If you present yourself as an author who publishes half-finished content, that is exactly how you will be seen.

You need to think of your readers as your potential employers, because in a way, that’s exactly what they are. You’d probably never intentionally submit a resume with a mistake in it, so why on earth would you do so with your story?

I can hear you asking how you are supposed to send out error-free content when you can’t afford to pay $75/hour for an editor. Start by doing the following:

  • Once your story is written, turn off your spell check and read through it on your own.You will see more errors when you aren’t being distracted by irrelevant suggestions from Word.
  • Use Grammarly. The free version is good enough to get you through the basics, and it is much more intelligent than your average word processor’s editor. I use the premium version at work and the free version at home.
  • Find someone to trade drafts with. There are other writers out there just like you, I promise. Find one you like and ask them to review your draft.
  • Refuse to settle for “good enough”. If you want to be recognized for your work on a bigger scale than your local writing group, put in the extra time. Self-editing sucks. We all know it. But do it anyway. Do it once, then do it again.
  • Take your time. Stop trying to pump out books as fast as you can. Write. Edit. Rewrite. Edit. Keep going until it’s better than you thought it could be. Then start to think about publishing. Quality, not quantity.

There are too many e-books out there that, unfortunately, aren’t worth the money that they are being sold for. If you want a strong personal brand as an author, and you want to sell more than 25 copies, you’re going to have to start thinking bigger than just a good idea. Do your best to produce something worth putting out there, and then do even better. The tips discussed can help you to make your manuscript more than just a beginning and an end.

A story is much more than its telling.

What do you think, are typos OK in  published stories? Are you focused on quality or quantity?

Find me on Facebook for the good stuff.

Writers: Making Yourself Marketable

tie-690084_1280There are two kinds of writers: those who only want to write a book, and those who only want to write.

The first kind only want to write on the side while working a different full-time job. The second kind wants writing to be their full-time job. I am of the second type, and lucky for us, the popularity of the internet has opened many new opportunities for us.

But, as the job postings seem to prove, the simple skill of writing is often not enough for you to get the interview. More and more, employers want candidates to have skills above and beyond one profession, and it can be a steep hill to climb.

However, there are a few skills that can help you to stand out amidst the competition that don’t take a whole new degree to learn. If you are seeking an online writing position, try to add the following to your resume in order to boost your marketability:

SEO. Search engine optimization is something that any business producing online content will want. In a few words, it is writing in a way that uses keywords and long-tail search phrases to get organic traffic from search engines. This basically means that employers want you to write in a way that will help their content to get picked up by Google.

It is way less intimidating than it sounds, and employers value keyword research and SEO writing highly. Do some research, learn about the tools that are out there, and familiarize yourself with them. It’ll do you a world of good.

Social Media Management. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social platforms are a norm for almost any company. Many businesses will want to hire a writer who can not only write posts for social media, but schedule, plan, and maintain them as well.

It’s really quite easy to manage a business page, so to get a feel for it, try setting one up for yourself and play around with it to learn the ropes.

Copywriting and Long-Form. Sure, you can write long-form content, like guides and whitepapers, but can you write copy? Copy is essential for ads, social media posts, emails, and more. It’s also not as easy as it sounds. Copywriting can, in some ways, be more complicated than long-form because you are limited in what you can say. It’s sort of like comparing what you can write in a Facebook post to what you can fit in a tweet.

The same goes for the opposite; if you can only write copy, start learning how to produce longer pieces like articles, blogs, and the like.

Although, in my opinion, it isn’t enough to just do a little research in order to learn how to copywrite or write a whitepaper, doing some reading or taking a course can only help you to beef up your qualifications.

Online Writing. Writing for print and writing for websites are two different beasts altogether. While it is appropriate to have long chunks of writing in print, you want online content to be easy to scan and sort through.

Learn the ins and outs of writing for an online audience, and showcase your skills in your samples. This can help a potential employer to see that you’re ready to publish content to their audience.

Editing. Although most people think that writing and editing go hand-in-hand, they actually don’t. If you are a good writer, but you are a little foggy on when you should use an em dash or what a style guide is, you have some room to grow.

In businesses where you are not the only writer, you will likely be expected to edit your co-workers’ content, which means that you need to know how to spell, punctuate, and organize a sentence.

Brush up on your skills and edit a few pieces as a volunteer to use in your portfolio.


If you invest time in yourself, you are more likely to get noticed. In a job market that is saturated with educated hopefuls, you need to stand out.

By adding a few extra skills to your resume in your down time, you can up your chances of getting noticed, and you might even get a higher compensation offer.

What kind of writer are you? What skills do you have on your resume other than writing?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

 

Creative Ways to Volunteer

Creative Ways to VolunteerIn my experience, volunteering is essential to building writing skills and references. While it can be a bit of a pain to work for free, it helps you to build your resume and portfolio, which you need to do in order to nab that eventual writing position.

Most people start with contacting local newspapers, magazines, or blogs to get their first gig, but many of these places have been inundated with applications and likely aren’t looking for volunteers. Not hearing back can get frustrating, and I know better than anyone that there are only so many places that you can offer services to.

That’s when you need to start getting creative about who you offer your skills to, and just how you offer them. You may have a specific type of writing that you are interested in, but when you’re first starting out, you may have to relax your grip a little in the beginning.

Think about this: basically everything on the internet is content-based. Everyone needs writers. Turn your eyes to charities, small local businesses, and museums. Read up on how to write social media posts, listicles, how-to posts, informational articles, and everything in between. The more skills that you have to give, the more someone is likely to pick you up.

It’s also a good idea to start a blog or site of your own to showcase what you can do. Look for content that needs a good polish in ads, on websites, social media pages, and so on. You are the superhero of good content; where there’s bad writing, you’re there! When you find it, write a polite proposal that talks about how what you do could benefit the business/charity/individual, and highlight that in return, you just want to build your portfolio.

If that doesn’t work, place an ad yourself. Writing today isn’t limited to online content, you can also use your skills to help people by offering to help write speeches, eulogies, obituaries, wedding vows, and more. This makes for unique content that looks good among your other samples, and it’s also a way to use your superhero writing skills for good.

Again, I know it’s not ideal to work for free, but when you’re fresh out of school, and employers are looking for candidates with experience, you have limited options in how you can make yourself stand out. It also gives you a great opportunity to learn new skills and to make excellent professional connections.

Besides, the holiday season is the best time for giving. Even if you don’t have money to donate, you have valuable skills that may even help to make someone’s Christmas all the brighter. Be creative and be open to new things and you’ll build a strong portfolio in no time.

What volunteering or portfolio tips do you have? What is the most unique writing you’ve done?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Freelance Writers: Protecting Yourself

Freelance Writers: Protecting YourselfFreelancing is a tricky business. First, you have to establish what services you’ll be offering, and how much you plan to charge. Then you need to market yourself and make contacts, perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of the trade. And then, after you finally get a client, you need to hash out a contract with clear terms so that you both understand what to expect from one another.

When I was contacted by my very first freelance client, I was delighted. We met, discussed the work, and then I asked if they wanted a contract. That was my first mistake. I never should have asked, I should have told them that one was necessary. Instead, they said no, they didn’t want a contract, and being strapped for cash and overwhelmed at venturing out onto my own for the first time, I acquiesced.

It was a disaster. Everything went smoothly at first, but after a few days the client checked in to see what the cost was at. I happily sent along a number, and immediately received a request to provide a list of every activity I had performed during every hour that I had charged for. Well, since we didn’t have a contract, we had never discussed it being my responsibility to do so. I certainly hadn’t cheated, I timed myself precisely. But I didn’t have a record of what I had done at each hour of the day for the previous week.

So, I wrote back and said, unfortunately, that since the work was mostly done, and that it was not something we had discussed, that it was quite impossible for me to oblige. I received a curt reply and a request to meet for payment the following weekend. I showed up, with the work I had done, and while the client was signing my check in a very full coffee shop, they loudly reprimanded me for my nerve and unprofessionalism.

Where some people would have wanted to cry, I just wanted to turn the table over. I had done the work, and I had done it well. I had charged a minimal fee because it was my first client, and they had declined a contract. They had never said, “Oh, and please keep a record of the time you spend on this to give me at the end of the project”. People were looking at us, and every word that passed through the client’s lips was like venom to me.

That experience taught me my very first freelancing lesson: contracts are a must, no matter how small the project, no matter how well you know the client, no matter how simple the terms are, you must have a signed agreement to protect both yourself and your work.

My first contracts were probably quite pitiable. I didn’t know how to make one or what to include. I never knew what I could and couldn’t put in writing, and I wasn’t sure what I could demand of my clients without scaring them away. But after improving them through the years with a variety of clients, there are a few key things that I always make sure to include no matter what they’re for.

To best protect yourself and your client, consider having clearly terms about:

  • Who will retain ownership of the work, and if you, the creator, may use the work in a portfolio or otherwise take credit for the work.
  • What exactly is included in the cost. For example, if you are charging a fee, does it include written and verbal communication, or just the actual work itself?
  • How much notice must you each provide to the other if one of you wishes to end the contract? This is important as it can help to give you time to replace the client and make up the income. I usually go with 30 days.
  • When invoices will be provided and when they need to be paid. I usually bill on the last day of the month and expect payment within two weeks. If you wish to charge a penalty for late payments, outline that in writing as well.

Of course, depending on the work, the client, and the freelancer, there are a number of other things you should include, but the most important advice that I can give is to have clear communication from the beginning.

As the contractor, you need to maintain control. Remember, you aren’t an employee, you are a strong, capable businessperson who is only interested in legitimate, paying, and solid contracts.

Before singing anything, talk to the client about every possible aspect of the relationship you may have together. Ask them about their expectations and requirements. If everything goes smoothly, do a draft of the contract and send it along for their review. This will help you to both understand what the outcome should be at the end of the term.

There’s no magic spell that will ensure a problem-free contract. There are always bumps, or sometimes even earthquakes, but by protecting yourself from the beginning you can help to ensure that you don’t get yelled at in a coffee shop by an ungrateful client while you try to keep yourself from morphing into a much less intimidating version of The Hulk.

What’s your best nightmare client story? Have you ever wished you had a better contract? Do you use contracts?

Typos: When Are They Acceptable?

Typos and ErrorsTypos. Everyone makes them. Editors, writers, communications professionals, teachers, and just about everyone else in between. They can be embarrassing, uncomfortable, and sometimes downright awkward. But sometimes they can do more than cause you to flush and send a quick correction.

Sometimes, typos can make or break a job application, or cause a reader to leave you a negative review. But how do you know when you should do an extensive edit and when you’re OK to worry a little less about the technical side of things? I mean, coming from a writer and editor, it’s just about impossible to produce error-free content every time.

First, let’s start with the difference between a typo and amateur writing. A typo is when you make a mistake, like typing “dacning” instead of “dancing”, or missing a single letter in a word by accident, like “smeling” instead of “smelling”. Common mistakes are acceptable in casual writing, like texts, blog posts, or quick emails to friends.

Amateur writing is when you use “it’s” instead of “its”, or you have trouble figuring out the differences between “to”, “too”, and “two”, or “there”, “their”, and “they’re”. These are the kinds of mistakes that push you below the competition, and send readers off to leave two star reviews after reading a few pages.

If you read my post from a couple of weeks ago, you know that I’ve spent a lot of time over the last month or so reviewing writing samples and resumes to fill a junior writing position where I work. To be honest, we have received a couple of samples that had errors that we were willing to overlook, but only because the quality of the writing was so high and the errors so small.

Even so, if you’re sending out writing that will likely be reviewed by expert readers or writers, you had better make sure that your spelling and grammar skills are up to scratch. A small error or two between a resume, cover letter, and 2-3 samples is understandable. But sending along a sample where your first word is “It’s” instead of “Its” is a little too  much.

The same goes for any kind of creative writing. If you’re scribbling in your journal, typo away! But if you’re either self-publishing or submitting to publishers, you should be certain to take a very, very close look at your writing. Like I’ve said before, if you aren’t willing to put in the time with your writing, why should your readers?

To avoid mistakes and errors that make your writing look poor, try to:

  • Pay careful attention to the beginning and end of your piece, errors stuffed within the content are a bit more understandable and harder to find.
  • Re-read after every edit as making changes can leave behind unintentional errors.
  • Take time between edits and reads so that you don’t hurry through the content out of boredom.
  • Make sure that you take time to learn best spelling and grammar practices, even if it isn’t your thing.

And remember, everyone, even pros, make mistakes. It happens. But if it’s something important, take the time to make the piece shine instead of risking a job offer over a silly typo.

What’s your editing process like? How do you make sure your content has no errors? Have you tried to learn about spelling and grammar from a professional standpoint?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Applying for Writing Jobs

Applying for Writing JobsAs a senior writer at my day job, I have had the unfortunate task of reviewing a couple of resumes for an opening that we have for a junior writer. Luckily, the ones that I have seen have been narrowed down from a hundred and some odd resumes by someone else, so I’m getting the best of the best (or worst).

Now, before this posting I didn’t quite realize how popular a writing job would be. But it turns out it is quite a desirable position. Whether it’s due to a less than stellar economy, or it’s that there aren’t many writing jobs out there, the response to this particular posting was overwhelming.

But even the few resumes that trickled down into my hands weren’t really all that wonderful. They both had potential, but I was honestly surprised that these were the absolute best of what we had received. That’s why I am going to go over some tips for those of you looking for writing jobs, that may or may not help you to get the position.

    1. Send relevant samples. If you have content related to the business, for example, finance, send it. Even if you only have one piece. Don’t only send that one article you did for an internship. And never send personal writing, such as the speech you wrote for your cousin’s wedding. Only send creative content if it’s requested. Stick to non-fiction for businesses.
    2. Spell the company name correctly. Pay attention to not only the spelling, but the formatting.
    3. Look over your resume for spelling errors at least 3 times, and request that a friend (who has a good grasp on the relevant language) reviews it as well. Use spellcheck. Often, a spelling error on the resume of a writer merits immediate disqualification. Harsh? Maybe.
    4. After you are certain your resume is in perfect shape, and I mean perfect, save it and send as a PDF unless otherwise indicated. It will save your formatting so that it doesn’t look off.
    5. Pay attention to the categories on your resume. Creativity is not a skill, it is an attribute. Social media may be an interest, but unless you have professional experience with it, it is not a skill either. Education should be for your education only, list your awards in a separate section.
    6. Have a professional email address. Of course your email might have to end in “@gmail.com” or “@hotmail.com”, but at least have it start with something like “firstinitial.lastname”.
    7. Don’t butter yourself up too much. In your cover letter and on your resume, avoid using too many adjectives. The person looking over your resume is likely a walking thesaurus from having to read over what you and all of the other applicants have said about yourselves. Be clear, not flowery.
    8. Try to match the writing style of the business’s existing content. Look for onsite content or blog posts and get a feel for their tone and style. Reference it in your resume by saying something like, “I have attached an article that I wrote for ______, similar to the one that you published on your blog about______”. They will love to know that you’ve been paying attention.
    9. Don’t be scared to put a firm salary. Many people put a range that stretches to about a ten thousand dollar difference. That’s a lot of wiggle room. Pick a number that you think you are worth based on your skills and industry standards.
    10. Watch out for your personal social media profiles. If you’re linking to your Twitter or blog, make sure there’s nothing on there an employer shouldn’t see. Guaranteed they are going to take a look, and if they find anything damning, you’re out.

Applying for a writing position can be a little more intense than other positions since your resume is likely to be torn apart and the tiniest mistake can affect whether or not you are considered. Make sure that you have actual, relevant, professional writing experience, a variety of samples, and a good friend with a sharp eye and you’ll be starting off on the right foot.

If you don’t yet have experience or samples, start looking for internships or contract pieces before you start applying for writing positions, if possible, to build your portfolio.

What’s your experience like with applying for writing positions? Do you have any tips for other writers?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Writer Stereotypes

Writer StereotypesWe all know at least a few, and we could all probably tick off at least a box or two on the list. Many professions have them, but writing seems to be dipped, rolled, and packaged in them at times.

Writer stereotypes vary from pleasant to neutral to negative, and often people forget that, although we are indeed writers, we are still individuals. Undoubtedly, many started from popular culture; movies, books, and so on. Others were probably conceived by writers themselves, or families of writers who picked up on certain habits.

Some of the ones that I hear, and usually have to deflect, include:

Writers have cats. Now, this one I can’t personally deny as I do have one cat. But, I also have two dogs. We’re only supposed to have cats I think.

We’re addicted to coffee/tea. I do like a nice cup of tea in the mornings, but I do not need it to survive. In fact, if I miss out on it I don’t even notice. I don’t have a kettle set up next to my desk on a constant boil.

We have day jobs. When people hear “writer”, they usually think it means that we write books or that we are journalists. They forget about all of the other writing that sits in between, making them assume that we just write for fun and not for a living.

We all want to be famous. Sure, some of us do. But some of us don’t. We all have different reasons for writing, and different goals that we choose. Most of us write because it’s what we’re good at, and we’re just following wherever that path takes us.

We only write when inspiration hits. Hah. No. We write when we have to to pay the bills, to work out an issue with a story, or just because it’s comforting. Waves of inspiration are great, but those movies with writing montages are quite far from realistic.

We can write anything. Technically I suppose we can, but that doesn’t mean we’ll do it well. Some of us are really good at fiction, but not so comfortable with non-fiction. Some of us love dialogue and some of us struggle with it. Someone who can write a fantasy story might be terrible at a marketing brochure.

Writing doesn’t require an education. Sure, many many writers start from an early age. That’s true. But most who become successful still took at least a few courses in writing or editing or English at some point. Just have the desire to write doesn’t mean that you can do it well without honing your skills.

We’re broody. Yes, we all just sit around solemnly thinking to ourselves in dark rooms full of antique furniture. With our cats on our laps and ink staining our fingers. Give me a break. We’re humans. We can be broody, but no more than anyone else.

We’re mysterious. I can’t put my finger on this one, really. Are we mysterious because people don’t understand how we make a living, or are we mysterious because we are doing something that most of the world does, but better?

Aside from that, we all wear berets, we smoke a lot of cigarettes, we forget to eat, and we are devastatingly romantic. Right, guys?!

Which ones are actually true to you, and which bother you the most? Do you have any to add to the list?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time. Unless I’m too busy after I’ve downed this bottle of whiskey, two packs of smokes, and refilled my ink pot. (Kidding, just kidding).

Why You Should Kiss Your Editor

Manuscript PageI read a rather upsetting quote the other day that was something along the lines of, “editors edit because they cannot write”. I can’t admit to remembering the exact context or source of the sentiment, but I found it to be naive and juvenile all the same.

Being an editor is similar to being a dentist. Often, people dread paying you a visit, but they have to do it in order to show off those pearly whites (or pearly pages) to the world. Editors need to polish, shape, scrape, and clean a manuscript just as a dentist does to your teeth. It’s bad enough to have writers dread your red pen, but to have people who believe that you do what you do because you could’t make it as a writer? Well, that’s even worse.

I write during about half of my professional time, and the other half is spent editing. My writing is good enough to be published to the masses, and my editing good enough to prepare the content of my co-workers for the same. Am I an anomaly? I think not. I think that perhaps whoever came up with that idea either had a terrible experience with an editor, or has a lot of trouble editing themselves.

An editor can be the difference between a flop and a bestseller, truly. They don’t only look for spelling and grammar issues, but they’ll make sure that when you said Sally’s eyes were blue, that they don’t change to brown halfway through the book. They’ll make sure that your readers won’t stumble or lose interest. They’ll make sure that when you say that your character traveled from one place to another in a single day that it makes sense logically. Some will even test recipes and calculate the passage of time to ensure consistency.

An editor expects to receive a rough story, even though the writer spent ages smoothing it. They’ll go over it carefully, exploring the intricate webs and structures of your words, sanding it down and helping to define the shape. And often, because they spend so much time perfecting the work of others, editors make excellent writers.

For me, the two go together like peas and carrots. To write well, you have to understand language at a deeper level than someone who does not write. To edit, you have to have a passion and adept knowledge for writing. You cannot expect to write well if you have no interest in editing, and you cannot expect to be a good editor if you do not enjoy writing.

I think that too much emphasis is placed on separating the two, when in actuality, editing should be set alongside reading as well as writing. To create quality material in any capacity, for any audience, you need to practice all three skills. They complement each other in such subtle ways that to ignore one is to damage the other. And in damaging one, you cause cracks and crevices in your stories.

Editors take your story and simply point to where they think that you could improve it. And ultimately, it is your work, so any good editor will make sure that you know that you may or may not accept some of their suggestions. They’ll walk you through the changes, and will often be willing to discuss or debate anything you wish to question. Remember, if something comes back to you with a lot of red, it means that you have an editor who spent a great deal of time trying to make your work the best that it could be.

So, instead of harping on them for missing a mistake or for wanting you to make a change that you don’t want to, try to find a little bit of appreciation for how much time they put into polishing your creation. Remember that they have the soul of a reader and writer as well, and that, if you picked a good one, they likely know what they are doing.

We should all be grateful to have people around who are willing to read our work over and over and over and provide insight while fully expecting to be criticized. So next time, show them that you genuinely appreciate their time and their skill. Show them that what they did made a difference to you, and that you think that they are just important to the story as you are.

What have your experiences with editors been like? What could have been better? Do you think that writers need to have editing skills as well?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.