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.