I have two editors. They’re old friends, one a prolific reader and a wizard with the English language, the other something of a writer himself (and all those other things as well). If anyone will determine the quality of my book other than me, it will be these two, and I feel lucky to have them in my corner. That they’ll read this post has nothing to do with me saying that. Okay, perhaps it does, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. You rock, guys!
This post isn’t about my editors though. It’s about editors in general. Today I got feedback from them on a short story I wrote, and it was a frightening experience. You see, despite all the time and effort I have spent writing fiction (years, literally, with over 180,000+ words penned), few people have seen my work. I, in my arrogance, had to make my first original work a full-length novel, and the first story in a multi-novel series. What can I say – I go big, or not at all. They’re supposed to see it after my first pass editing, but I’m still trying to get there. My work hasn’t seen much of the editor’s sword.
My time blogging has hardened me, as I hoped it would. When I started at Random Curiosity, a scathing comment by a vicious malcontent (okay, okay, a dissatisfied reader. It’s not like they were out to get me or anything. Well, most weren’t) could hollow out my confidence for a day or more. Words hurt, and none hurt more than those that wound an artist’s pride.
Now? Not an eyelash batted. Well, maybe one or two, but at most it will put a slight damper on an ebullient mood, not shut me down completely. At least the haters don’t stop me from getting work done anymore.
But editors, now… What if they didn’t like it? What if I wasn’t as good as I thought? I know my writing is flawed and that I have much to learn, but what if it was worse than that? These were all irrational thoughts, I knew – I couldn’t do anything about it now, the story had already been sent off, so why worry?
But I did. I worried because I knew that if it was bad, they would tell me; to an artist, there’s no greater cruelty than softening the blow, no greater disservice than holding back for fear of a wounded ego. Honesty is a kindness, even when it hurts. They know that, so if a scathing review was in order, I knew I would receive it.
In the end, the reviews were pretty good. There were things I need to work on, certainly, but my little short story was not as irrevocably flawed as I feared. Now I find myself relieved. That story is not done, nor the larger book from which it springs, but it’s not a lost cause. It has potential. It could be. I thought that before, but the artist doubts. Now I doubt less.
Here’s what I think – if you wish to write (or draw, play, act, dance, build, etc), do it openly and often. No one edits these posts, and they will live or not on their own merits. But if you aim to create something more enduring, something that will stand the test of time, find good editors. They’ll tell you if there are things you need to fix, and that’s valuable. Mostly though, what they do is look at what you’ve done and say no, it’s actually pretty good. You can do this, you’re not totally crazy. Keep going.
Editors allow you to keep on creating, without fear eating you from the inside.