From the Editor's Desk

What I Think About Editing Your Work

It’s hard to place your work in someone else’s hands.

I’ve been a writer longer than I’ve been an editor, which is probably as it should be. I know the pain and fear of querying, the tension of meeting a publisher’s specific requirements, and the great feeling of a job completed to (or whenever possible, above) an editor’s standards.

I Think Ms. Editor Snob is Not Here Today

So when a new writer comes and talks to me about their work, I’m not sitting in some chic little office looking down my nose at the latest “disaster” sent to Almighty Ol’ Me for fixing. I’m glad to hear from you–it’s really cool to get an email from somebody I haven’t met before, talking about writing.

When I sit down with your work, I’m thinking about how to tell you the technical flaws are not life-threatening to you, and here’s how to fix them. Because I know writing and drowning have certain sensations in common.

I’m thinking about how to make you smile in the process of receiving my feedback.

And I’m thinking about all the priceless responses I’ve had from writers. Because I want it to go that way for everyone I assist.

I Think It’s Awesome You Came to Me

This writing thing can be a punishing effort. Here, at my desk, is not the time for that. This is the place for ninja training to get writers through the crazy stuff the world may throw their way.

I think it bears saying that a good client is worth more to me than I can express. I am choosy about who I take on, because I’m someone who wants to connect in a supportive working relationship, not just take your money and mark up your margins. When I read something like my student Tim’s blog post, I’m grateful, tremendously grateful. The value of good relationships is not possible to overstate.

I Think What’s Best for Writers is What Counts

But what about the writer who’s not ready for an editor? Does that happen?

Yeah, it does. Basically, at the intensive end of my service scale, there’s work that runs about 5 pages per hour when it’s light, and takes an hour per page at heaviest. If the workload goes any higher than that, the writer’s not ready for an editor–they’re looking at a heavy book doctoring leaning into ghostwriting territory, and that may not be what they want or need. (It also costs more.) That’s one way of looking at it.

The other way is that, if the writer lacks the needed grounding in what writing is and does (and we all start out that way to some extent or another), then it may not be worthwhile to pour money into an editor’s instruction. If it’s all confusing and frustrating to you, then was it worth the time, money and agony? No, I think not.

I’m Thinking About How to Help

As I slowly get this site going, my Beginning to Write post series is designed (with the input of some editor friends) to orient you to the writing life. It’s sort of meta: It’s stuff about writing, rather than stuff that explains writing. There are various ideas out there about approach to writing that underlie the actual act of creating words on pages. You’ll come across less-helpful attitudes out there that will confuse you and bog you down. But there are others will lead to a fruitful creative discipline. So I want to help clear the confusion out of the way.

I’m also building on that with the Fiction Focus and Nonfiction Notes. These deal more specifically with how various types of writing communicate to readers. That’s the thing that matters, in the end: How does it read?

Without a communicator’s perspective, we’re just learning rules and formulas, rather than how to make the rules work in the best way possible. So, before you and I sit down to talk about your work, it’s important to start thinking about writing in terms of talking to readers. Not as a scary thing, but as the foundation of all technical considerations.

The creative road less traveled involves measuring yourself accurately and staying true to yourself. I’m here to help you do that–and much more.


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