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.

 

Advertisements

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.

What Exactly is Poor Writing?

What Exactly is Poor Writing?Any of you who have editing experience can back me up when I say that it is a very tiring process, especially when the piece you are reviewing is poorly written. And while the perceived quality of writing is subjective, there are a few key indicators that it isn’t just you, that the writing itself is the problem.

Poor writing doesn’t necessarily mean bad spelling and questionable grammar. It can refer to the structure and style as well. When reviewing your work, or that of others, be sure to pay attention to the following things to see if the piece just doesn’t mesh with your preferred style, or if it really does need to be reworked.

Beginnings. Whether it’s a blog post, a short story, or a paragraph of copy, every piece of writing needs to have an opening line at the very least, if not an entire paragraph or even page. How that beginning is crafted can tell you a lot about someone’s writing skills. Weak beginnings cause readers to lose interest immediately, and they act as one of the most important parts of content.

Transitions. Transitions are when you go from one thought to another. They are what leads the reader from the end of one idea to the beginning of another smoothly so that there is a consistent flow to the writing. Poorly written transitions are jarring and they throw the reader out of the content, causing confusion and backtracking.

Syntax. Syntax is a tricky little beast. It’s more of an ingrained skill than one that you can pick up from studying. It’s the proper structure of sentences and words within them, and while it can sometimes be difficult to tell if someone is using proper syntax, there’s no denying when it is being misused. Poor syntax is confusing, jarring, and hard to read. I relate it to trying to swim through molasses.

Vocabulary. Repetition, lack of variety, and a penchant for either over-complicated or under-complicated word choices are all indications that the content isn’t ready for publication. While every writer has a style (that’s how Rowling was found out when she wrote The Casual Vacancy“), refusing to add a little spice to your content by means of a new word once in awhile can give off a feeling of laziness and amateurism.

Reading level. Reading level doesn’t just mean whether your content should be rated R or not. It means what grade level would be able to read the piece without difficulty. If the content is for a YA audience, then the language should match that. Just as there would be a difference between a blog post and an article for a scholarly journal. If the reading level doesn’t suit the audience, they will either lose interest because the content is too simple, or they will become frustrated because it is too hard to understand.

Punctuation. Surprisingly, punctuation can have a slot all of its own. When you see content that is written like this: “the wind HOWLED!! they couldn’t decide whether: to run or to stay in the cave?”, you know it’s not ready. Poor use of punctuation is a good way to see that the writer doesn’t have a grasp on the basics and that they need to do some more learning before they send anything else to someone for review.

Conclusions. Just like beginnings, there are conclusions to everything. Emails, lines of copy, short stories, research papers, and books. They all have endings, and while endings are never the same, and can be crafted from many different styles, how they are written can leave a reader feeling like they wasted their time.


Any one of these on its own can be a small issue that just needs some polishing, but when you combine a few of them into a single writing sample, it’s fairly easy to see that whatever you are reviewing requires some heavy edits.

The good news is that all of these things can be fixed with healthy doses of reading and writing. Often, I find that the best advice to give when handing back poor writing is to tell the writer to read more. Read pieces similar to what you are trying to create and pay attention to how they handled problem areas.

If you have issues with transitions, look at how other writers navigate through them. Pick up tricks and tools from other content before you take to the keyboard again so that you will already know how to fix your bad habits when they rear their heads.

What’s one of your worst writing habits? How did you fix it? Do you find that reading helps to make better writers?

Find me on Facebook for the good stuff.

How Math Makes Rejection Suck Less

paper-794329_1920Most writers submit something to a publisher at one point or another. Whether it’s flash fiction, a short story, or a fully-written book, we all split open our chests and bare our fragile, sensitive souls to complete strangers at some point during our journey.

And it sucks. No matter if your piece is accepted or not, the waiting, the wondering, and that moment you see an email in your inbox with the publisher’s name in it all make you want to puke when you think about it. The process of getting published is, if we’re being honest, pretty awful.

And that’s just on its own, leaving out the fact that everyone gets rejections, no matter how good their writing is. If you submit anything to anyone, there is a ridiculously high chance that you are going to receive, at one point or another, an email that inevitably starts with, “Unfortunately…”. And even for seasoned writers with hearts of stone, reading that word can make you doubt everything about yourself and your skill.

But it doesn’t end there. Often, even after you have waited months to hear whether or not your work was accepted, when they decline, they won’t offer any feedback as to why. How can you improve without knowing where you went wrong? How can you submit to them again if you don’t understand exactly why your story wasn’t a fit?

As you can see, it’s all one big awful experience that induces crippling anxiety, grows self-doubt, and chips away at your self-confidence.

But, in all its awful glory, there still lies a glimmer of hope. The faintest sparkle in the darkness when you finally get a letter that says your story was accepted. And that’s what makes it all worth it, right?

And who ever said finding the right publisher for your story was going to be easy? When you think about it, there are a limited number of quality publishers out there for your genre and type of story. Most of them accept international submissions. So you are competing with a very large pool of content from writers with varying degrees of experience. What are your chances of being published?

Let’s talk about that for a moment, and I’ll use a bit of simple (I promise) math to make my point.


 

In marketing, we determine the success or failure of an initiative by examining the conversion rate. For example, if we create a new landing page and the purpose is to get people to sign up for a newsletter, the conversion rate is determined by examining how many people come to the page versus how many sign up for the newsletter.

Say 100 people visit the page, and only 10 sign up (the other 90 visitors leave the page without taking any action). That would be a 10% conversion rate. Sounds pretty low, right? No! A 10% conversion rate is an indication of a highly successful landing page.

So, a 10% conversion rate is good in marketing, but what does that have to do with submitting stories? Everything.

If we scale it down, and apply it to a realistic submission process, we can say that to get a high conversion rate of 10% when sending in stories to publishers, we would have to get 1 acceptance for every 9 rejections. 9. NINE. Nine people saying, “Unfortunately, your story was not a fit…”. That’s a whole lot of rejections.

But that means it isn’t totally unrealistic to think that, even after getting 2 or 3 (or 8) rejections, you should keep going. Hell, even a 5% conversion rate is high, and that would mean that you would have to get rejected 19 times before getting published. And that’s only for one story.

So don’t stop. Don’t give up after you hear “No” once, twice, or even thrice. Make a list of publishers that you think are a fit for your piece before you even start sending out your work. Find at least 10, and work your way through it. Push for that 10%, because if you don’t, you might miss out on your chance.


 

One of the only things in the world that really has a 100% conversion rate is life to death, and it’s far to short to waste your time feeling bad because not all of your stories get accepted the first time, every time.

How many times would you submit a story before giving up? What rejection advice do you have for other writers?

Find me on Facebook for the good stuff.

The Right Way to Write

diary-968592_1920There seems to be a “right” way to do just about everything. But the thing with writing is that there really isn’t one, except to write. Sure, there is a right way to spell words, and a right way to use punctuation, but even those have loose and malleable rules.

Though it makes absolutely no sense to impose writing rules on anyone, people like to do it anyway; don’t use adverbs, never use the word “very”, always write every day, and so on and so forth until you are ready to rip your hair out and become a mime instead.

The beauty, and also the art, of writing lie in its complete and utter individuality. Every famous writer (for the most part) has created a masterpiece because they forged their own path, and did what worked for them. They discovered their own unique process and stayed true to it.

Do you think every single one of them wrote every single day? No. Do you think that all of them wrote their books in a year or less? No. Do you think that none of them ever used an adverb? Doubtful. Yet we, as writers, hear these things all the time, and they are supposedly meant to be helpful.

Really, all they do is place us in a box and seal it with packing tape. If we all followed the same rules all of the time, our writing would be terribly similar. No one ever became a famous writer after writing the exact same manuscript as someone else. They did well because they broke free of the mold.

If you want to write well, you need to find your style. And in your style you need to find your voice and your tone. And of all of the difficulties that writing brings with it, I would say that this is the biggest obstacle that most writers face. It’s the difference between writing like everybody, and writing like yourself, which can go a lot deeper than just a story.

Your style is what draws people to your content. I didn’t enjoy GoT because it was just like Harry Potter. I liked it because it was different. I liked it because I didn’t need to ask whether it was by a different author.

As another example, I’m not a big fan of poetry, but sometimes the style of a poem will hook me and it won’t let go (Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas).

Writing rules, whether created by famous authors and editors, or by fellow bloggers, are, unfortunately, often useless. The only writing rules that you should follow are your own, and you should never avoid writing in your preferred style because someone else told you it was wrong.

Once you find your voice, which can take a lot of effort, mind you, embrace it. The best writing comes when you are inspired, and sometimes nothing can inspire you more than your own mind. If you don’t feel comfortable listening to it, then how can you ever expect to make something of quality?


 

Just as you are your own person, you should be your own writer. Let yourself show in your work and you’ll find it comes much more easily than trying to follow all of the contradictory and suffocating rules that are floating around.

Have you found your style yet, or are you still testing the waters? What writing advice would you give to other writers?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Editing Like A Boss

How to Edit Like a BossEditors are expensive. It’s a painful truth for writers who are trying to get their work to a publisher while working a less enjoyable job in the meantime to pay the bills. That’s why so many writers choose to exchange their work with others in similar situations. I mean, if you can write, you can edit, no? No. But you can provide a decent service if you make an effort.

So, as an editor, I want to share some tips about how to edit a piece of someone else’s fiction without coming off like a loathsome toad.

Tip One: Learn how to use Track Changes in Microsoft Word. This one little function will help your edits to look professional, and any suggestions or changes you make are much easier to implement this way. You’ll be doing a world of good for both yourself and the writer.

Another tip with Track Changes is to take advantage of both the inline editing feature as well as comments. Fix errors and so on inline, and leave suggestions or encouragement in the comments.

Tip Two: Red doesn’t have to mean “bad”. Not all of the red markup that an author sees needs to be negative. Make note of specifically strong passages or unexpected cliffhangers. Tell them where the dialogue is working and where they described something perfectly. This helps to show the writer that you paid attention to the whole story instead of only focusing on what wasn’t working.

Tip Three: Only provide helpful insight. If you don’t have a suggestion as to how something could be fixed, or you can’t quite figure out what is working, leave it. You are there to be helpful, not to provide useless feedback. If something is really rubbing you the wrong way, but you can’t figure out why, mark it and come back to it later. But don’t hand it over until you can explain what isn’t working and why. How is a writer supposed to fix an issue if the reader can’t tell them what is wrong?

Tip Four: Pick your battles. This is not your story, it belongs to someone else. Take your personal opinion out of the mix and substitute a good helping of understanding. If you prefer serial commas and the author doesn’t, don’t feel like you need to explain why they are superior or start putting them in every list of three or more items.

However, if you feel very strongly that a character would not react a certain way, that’s an example of when you can feel free to make a note of it.

Tip Five: Make a style sheet and ask the author style questions before you start. If you don’t know what a style sheet is, you should probably do a little research.

Essentially, it’s a document where you keep a list of proper spellings, grammar and punctuation choices, and writing rules specific to the manuscript you are reviewing. Before you make one, ask the author how to spell all of the character names correctly, if they prefer to spell out numbers, and so on.

Watching for these things will help you to edit not only the story and the bare minimum when it comes to errors, but more technical issues that would get picked out by editors and publishers.

Tip Six: Before handing over the manuscript with all of your edits, write a letter about your thoughts in general. Start with a paragraph or two that includes what you enjoyed the most about the manuscript. This could include things like: dialogue, descriptions, character interactions, setting, etc.

Use another paragraph to briefly list the most common high-level things that you picked out that could use work, like common misspellings, poor syntax, or poor transitions between chapters.

Tip Seven: Be open to scheduling a conversation about your edits. It can be hard to want to dedicate more of your time, for free, to going over edits, so limit it to a one or two hour conversation with the writer. This should be after they have had a chance to review your suggestions and write up a list of questions about any of your thoughts.

In this meeting (in-person, over the phone, online, wherever) reiterate what they did well and offer to look over any changes they have made based on your suggestions. Be kind and courteous, while still holding your ground about anything that you felt strongly about.


 

Never forget that the work isn’t your own, and that even though you have made suggestions, you shouldn’t assume that any or all of them will be incorporated into the final version.

The most important part of editing like a boss is knowing how to balance both criticism and encouragement in a way that is helpful, clear, and consistent. Take time to review your edits, to ensure that they make sense and provide value before sending anything away, and be open to discussing what you had to say. When in doubt, think about how you would feel if the tables were turned.

Do you exchange work with other writers? Have you come away satisfied, or feeling like it wasn’t worth it?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

The Reality of Writing

The Reality of WritingOne of the most overwhelming and intimidating aspects of writing a book is that you are generally expected to complete it before you even send it out for consideration. On your own, with no real guidance, you are expected to put in hours and hours of your being into something that may or may not make it out of the slush pile.

That’s frightening. It’s daunting. It’s discouraging. Isn’t it?

To me, that is the hardest part of writing. It’s not the technicality of it, it isn’t whether or not I think I have what it takes, it’s that I could end up pouring my heart and soul into something that never grows bigger than a dated manuscript left forgotten in a box in the spare room.

It isn’t enough to have talent even. Look at how many authors were rejected before their manuscripts were finally picked up. Some of them have been ridiculously successful, too. We can assume that those who rejected them now regret it, but what if that was the last place the manuscript had been submitted to? How many stories have we missed out on because they didn’t make it through acquisitions?

The act of writing is often romanticized into this starving artist dream. Real writers don’t write for money, they write because they are bursting with words. They write for the art itself, not for the reward. Right? But then they still need to live. They still need roofs over their heads and food in their bellies. So then, what are we left to do?

The forgotten reality of being a writer is that if you want to write professionally, chances are you are going to have to write things that you don’t want to about topics that you don’t care for. Writing requires that you separate your goals into segments if you want to succeed. The likelihood of you finding a job right out of high school writing fantasy stories that pays you enough to support yourself and your future is low.

And the chances of you having the money and time to write the perfect book before the age of 25 and having it become successful beyond your wildest dreams is also quite low.

What most writers and even authors won’t tell you is that writing requires sacrifice. In time, in money, and sometimes in self-confidence. It’s a hard path that breeds a lot more uncertainty than other professions. It is not for the faint of heart. It’s not like a painting where people can take one glance and decide if it is he next masterpiece. Writing requires significant investments from readers and critics before they can decide whether or not it is worthy.

But for all its hardships and all its uncertainty, writing attracts a certain breed. Us writers, the ones who continue to trudge through the muck and the mud, are like crusaders in search of the Holy Grail. Though, I’d like to think that we have a better chance of finding what we seek than those who sought the bejeweled chalice.

We are the ones who deflect assuming questions about being writers and sidestep the voice in our heads that tells us how terrible our writing is. We are the ones who, like Frodo and Sam, drag ourselves up that sweltering, steep path over jagged rocks, and with our last bit of strength, toss our manuscripts and stories and articles at publishers in the hopes that they will forge our work into something great instead of consuming it in flames.

So when writing gets you down, when you are ready to beg for mercy at its feet, remember that every other writer who is working towards something has been where you are now. Remember that we have all whimpered in acquiescence of its might. But we have also stood back up, time and time again, only to force it into a harness, if even only for a short while.

What was an unexpected reality of writing when you first started? What do you think is the hardest part? What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring writer?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Editing Secrets for Non-Editors

Editing Secrets for Non-EditorsIn a perfect world, editing and writing would go hand-in-hand. But, the world is not perfect, and while some are strong writers, they abhor editing. Don’t worry, I understand. Editing is a pain. It means rehashing words that you have already written, and looking at passages that you wrote and wondering what you were thinking.

It’s a long process that can take multiple passes before even being ready to be passed off to an editor, whether professional or not.

But there are some tricks that you, as a writer, can use to clean up your first draft, making it easier for both yourself and someone else to go through. Wondering what they may be? Follow along below.

Make a number rule. What is a number rule? It’s when you decide which numbers you will spell out, and which you will write as numbers. For example, 1-10 then eleven and up. Or, 1-99 and one hundred and up. Be consistent about your choices and remember to make exceptions such as for years (1977).

Pick a side in the Oxford comma debate. To use them or not to use them, that is the question. Pick whichever you prefer and stick with it.

Watch your spellings. Are you using American, Canadian, or UK English? It’s the hardest for Canadians, since we use a mixture of the other two, and deem variations to be acceptable.

Make notes. If you mention that someone in chapter two has red hair, they better still have red hair (or a backstory) later in the story. Is someone tall, or short, or do they have traits worth mentioning? Keep notes so that your characters and settings make sense throughout.

Research. If you are introducing, for example, an android, into your story, you better make sure that you actually know what that is. Or, if your saying that someone rode a horse from one place to another in so many days, make sure the timeline makes sense. It doesn’t take much to Google a question or two.

Names. If you’re making up names as you go, keep a list of them and their spellings. For example, if you’re naming someone Bartram VanHoutenstein of the Agarentia Valley, are you going to remember exactly how to spell it every time? Or who his brothers or sisters or children are? Maybe not. Make a note of capitalization as well.

Edit like it’s a puzzle. It’s hard to sit down and edit a whole story at once, so break it up into pieces, but don’t forget to keep in mind that you are also editing the story as a whole. You should never edit a chapter at a time and then assume that you are done. Each piece fits into a bigger puzzle.

The above tips are used by professional editors, but combine tricks from both copyediting and fiction editing. What type of editor you choose will affect the type of input you receive at the end, but if you do your best to hand off a clear, clean, and learned manuscript, your editor can focus more on the strengths and weaknesses of your content as a whole instead of becoming distracted by small typos and errors.

Do you use any of these tips? What others would you add?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Self-Editing Tips

Self-Editing TipsA lot of us edit our own work. Sometimes we are the only ones who edit it, and other times, we edit it ourselves over and over before sending it out to someone else for review. The problem with self-editing is that not many who do it are actually trained in editing, so knowing what to look for can be difficult and time consuming.

So, as an editor and writer, I’d like to share some tips and tricks with you so that you can edit more efficiently, or even create a better product.

    1. Become familiar with “Track Changes” in Microsoft Word. This is an editing function that allows for inline edits, inserted comments, and formatting changes. When going over a draft, or having someone else go over one for you, use it. You won’t regret it.
    2. Use “ctrl f”. When you press ctrl and then f, it opens up a search box that will search the text on your page for whatever you’d like. This is especially helpful if you change a name, consistently spell something incorrectly, or know that you made a mistake somewhere. Find it, fix it, and move on.
    3. Use a standard format. That means stick with a regular sized font, double space, and ad page numbers from the very start. It makes editing easier, and whoever you send it to afterwards will love you for it.
    4. Read it out loud. Hearing things can really help you to figure out where there’s any awkward wording or jumpy transitions. If it sounds strange to you when you say it, it needs to be reworked. It can also help in catching small spelling and grammar errors because your eyes won’t just move over them.
    5. Be hard on yourself. If you feel deep down that a passage isn’t working, don’t leave it as is. Work on it until you are satisfied. Spend as much time as you need to make each word fit together.
    6. Don’t expect other people to fix your work. Before you send your work to someone else, it should be the best you think it can be. Don’t send something knowing there are errors or weak sections in it. Polish and smooth your work before handing it off.
    7. If, when editing, you find an issue that you don’t know how to fix, but don’t have time to look into it, mark it with a comment. Go back to it when you have time instead of putting a band-aid on it.

Editing is hard. Whether you are doing it yourself, or having someone else do it for you, it hurts. It’s a long process that can make you feel self-conscious and vulnerable, but ultimately it makes your story better.

It’s important to stick with clarity and consistency while you are writing, so that the editing process is easier later on. Remember to use a thesaurus, avoid repetition, and acknowledge your faults and weaknesses as a writer. Doing so will help you to create a strong piece of writing that comes through the editing process with a lot less red.

What are your self-editing tips? How did you learn to self-edit effectively? Are you comfortable with editing your own work or that of others?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

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.