Attention, Writer: Listen to Your Editor

Greetings, my lovelies. I know, it’s been simply AGES since you’ve heard anything from me here. Not to worry, neither have I perished, nor have I been abducted by various bad guys or sundry aliens. Granted, my body has been hijacked by a small being that seems determined to keep me alternately starving or nauseated, but since I volunteered as host, I can’t really complain.

Yes, you read that correctly: I am, indeed, with child. I’m also looking forward to the end of the first trimester, when, everyone assures me, the debilitating exhaustion and nausea should pass. And once it does, you can expect a post or two containing more tongue-in-cheek reflections on pregnancy and impending parenthood, &c.

But I Digress — On to The Stuff About Getting Edited!

Your editor will probably use more editor-ish marks than I've used here. But either way, you get the point!

Today, I’ve emerged from temporary hibernation in order to share with you the following quote I read this morning:

“If the editor is worth their salt, they will tear your work up in red, making many critical comments. That’s a good thing. It’s what you want. Without it, you’ll never know how to write well. Your friends value your friendship too much to tell you what they honestly think. If you are serious about writing, you simply cannot have thin skin. So hire an editor to give you some straight talk. You may go into depression for a few weeks following, but once you recover, you’ll emerge a better writer.”

–Frank Viola
in “On Writing: Part II – How Authors & Bloggers Can Use Social Media”

Let me repeat that: Without the tearing-up of your work via an editor, you will never know how to write well.

Why not?

Because here’s the truth of the matter: Your story doesn’t have the solid structure you think it has. Your grammar is not as perfect as you think it is. Your characters aren’t as distinct and multi-dimensional as you think they are. Your writerly voice does not read as clearly as you think it reads.

Basically hon, you’re not as good a writer as you imagine you are.

Welcome to Being A Writer.

By definition, we writers are all blind. We might be able to recognize a few of our own flaws, but we’re kind of like the story of the three blind men who all grope an elephant to determine what it is. We feel out a few problems here and there, but we never see the big picture. We can’t. We’re too close to it. We identify an unattractive hair or two growing out of an ear somewhere, but there’s no way we can see the wrinkles, the lines, or the flab hanging down to drag the ground.

Editors are amazing people.

They see things.

No, no, they don’t see dead people… Wait! Ha! They do see dead people. Dead story people, that is. They see the parts of your story that are afflicted by rigor mortis. They see where things have atrophied beyond hope of reanimation. They see where you need to nip, tuck, slice, and purge. And the good news is, unlike your best friend or your mom or your solicitous Aunt Bertha, editors aren’t afraid to tell you.

So, writer, take your editor’s advice: Suck it up and get to work. Your story will thank you for it, your readers will thank you for it, and your future writerly self will love you for it.

P.S. Lest you think I balk at taking my own medicine, here’s the one In Which Courtney Got Edited And It Hurt But She Didn’t Regret It.

The One With Remarkablogger Michael Martine

“Money pays the bills but it doesn’t do anything for your heart.”

–Michael Martine,

Greetings, inklings! Today’s post is my interview with Remarkablogger Michael Martine, who blogs all sorts of fantabulous whats, hows and whys for blogging and business. His humor is dry, his style straightforward, and his advice spot-on. He loves helping others accomplish their business dreams. I hope he inspires you as much as he does me!

Plus, he’s as big a fantasy nerd as I am, which just makes him cramazing fun to talk to. ; )

Courtney: How did you decide to start coaching bloggers?

Michael — That’s a great question. Unfortunately, I don’t coach bloggers. Bloggers are cheap and broke and the worst clients. I coach business owners who use blogging and social media as marketing tools. This isn’t just semantics: the mindset, goals and–very important for me–budgets of the two groups are very different from each other. I decided to become a blog consultant because it dawned on me that it was sorely needed and would be fun as well as profitable. If there’s a gold rush, don’t run to the hills with everyone else, sell pickaxes and a prospecting manual instead. There is a whole new world of freedom available to anyone with the courage and means to live there. The means in this case is an understanding and strategy about how online business and marketing works. You bring the courage and I’ll help with the means.

CC: In your post What Narcissism Taught Me about Marketing, you share painful childhood memories and don’t shy away from honesty about your flaws. What gives you the courage to make yourself so vulnerable to all of your readers?

MM — I don’t care what other people think about me, but I have to live with myself, so honesty beats lying. It also makes for juicier reading.

CC: In that same post, you write:

“On the other hand, as a one-person business (which most of you are), you are also something of a one-person ‘cult of personality.’ Which is odd, because in the right situation, people actually will care about what you had for lunch.

“The way this works is that you have to connect your personal stuff to the lessons your followers want from you. You have to connect specific personality traits to your brand and express them in your content marketing.”

How does “one-person cult of personality” in content marketing apply to honest, open bloggers who don’t consider themselves a business?

MM — It’s what makes people want to follow you, regardless of whether you have anything to sell to them. While it seems weird to say “be a slight caricature of yourself” and “be authentic” in the same breath, all I’m saying is that people remember certain things about you and you have influence over that. You also still have to decide on a logo and colors, which are also part of your brand. You’re deliberately crafting a certain look and feel in order to communicate specific ideals. Is this dishonest? No, of course not. So, neither is it dishonest when considering how to “color” your writing voice or your speaking. Deliberateness and purpose are not dishonest.

CC: A few weeks ago, one of your posts caused a ruckus because some of your readers took exception to your calling them either pimps and prostitutes. When you have a controversial idea for a post, do you always implement it?

MM — Controversy and shock value are somewhat related but I never post anything just for shock value. Dividing people is a great way to get comments and a reaction. Things are never so simple or black-and-white, but when you reduce the terms of the debate to an either/or situation in order to get people to think, it allows for great discussion. Whether you get that great discussion or your comments devolve into a FOX “news” show is up to you. It’s your blog.

I think about what kind of reaction or discussion that will happen before I post. I think about how the topic meshes with my brand. For a site with the tagline “No-Bullshit Blogging for Bitchin’ Businesses,” dividing the online business world into pimps and prostitutes to get a discussion started and drive traffic makes perfect sense. If you’re too squeamish or dainty to follow me down that road, I don’t want you on my site because you’re never going to be a client of mine.

CC: What’s your most effective way of dealing with readers’ criticism?

MM — Real criticism is valuable and I love to receive it. I will thank you for it. If somebody is just bloviating because they’re pissed off, well… they’ve already made themselves look bad. People can and will think whatever they want, and facts be damned. Having said that, it almost NEVER happens on Remarkablogger because my readers are smart and have good manners.

CC: What are your criteria for deciding whether or not to post the controversy?

MM — I kinda already talked about this (yay for reading the questions in advance… ) but let me add this: I don’t post because a topic is controversial. I post because I think it will help people who may need me as a blog consultant move closer to hiring me, which is how all businesses should decide to publish marketing content. Let’s not forget that’s what we’re doing here. We’re marketing. If we do it right, it doesn’t look like it. But it is.

CC: What’s your favorite part of helping others be more genuine in their blogging?

MM — Getting emails and having conversations with people who tell me their business is better because they implemented my advice and ideas. That’s the best feeling. Money pays the bills but it doesn’t do anything for your heart.


Courtney here again. I want to thank Michael for saying yes to my interview request and for taking the time to give such thoughtful replies to all of my questions! And hope that you, my inklings, find his tips and openness as encouraging as I do! Here are a few of my favorite quotes from his interview:

There is a whole new world of freedom available to anyone with the courage and means to live there.

…[W]hen you reduce the terms of the debate to an either/or situation in order to get people to think, it allows for great discussion.

I don’t post because a topic is controversial. I post because I think it will help people…

…[M]y readers are smart and have good manners. 😉

So, dear readers, what do you have to say?

How difficult is it for you to be genuine in your blogging? How much do you worry about what others will think of you?

What are you going to do about it?