One of the things that I’ve learned along my writing journey is the importance of input. Just over a year ago, I submitted my first piece of Flash Fiction to a christian speculative fiction magazine called Splickety. That first story scared me. I read the theme, saw the story unfold in my head, and scribbled out a masterpiece. I sent my first draft to five or six people asking for feedback. A few days later, waiting in my inbox was several copies of my perfect story, marred and covered with little red lines.
As a writer, I assume that everything I write is pure gold spun from the heavens and gifted to mankind to change the world. Of course, that’s not true. The flood of red-lined input was at first a little overwhelming.
Me: Cut something from my phenomenal, perfect prose?
All the editors:
You used the word travel four times in the same paragraph.
Use a stronger verb here.
Make this sentence active.
Cut out the first paragraph, and start the story here.
Me: Oh. I see that. Maybe this could use some changes.
Going over an edit can be painful. But there is a piece of truth every writer needs to learn: when you have a talented editor, their feedback is priceless.
As I said earlier I’ve had the privilege of writing for the Splickety Publishing Group. That opportunity has given me time to work with six different editors. For my first several stories, the suggestions looked similar: use a strong verb here, take out this comma and make it two sentences, show don’t tell. My first drafts still tend to be sloppy, but those pieces of input have changed the way that I write.
At a recent HCC Writer’s Guild meeting, one of our members asked, “at what point does your writing become someone else’s?”
She was battling the idea that when an editor changes your sentences, your structure, and sometimes your content, at what point are you no longer the writer. I had the opportunity to share some of my insight, and I thought up a SpecFic twist to explain the way it works.
I see the relationship of writer and editor as a symbiote and host. Think Venom from Marvel, or the Goa’uld from Stargate. I’d rather not use the word parasite, because that imagery tends to be negative. An editor takes the content and meat of what the writer creates and makes it perform to the best it could be.
In my case, the stories I write (typically) have solid characters, and imaginative worlds. The editors I’ve worked with read the story, and grasp the feel. They understand the characters. They know where the story starts, and where it needs to end. They make suggestions to bring out the best in the story. Their job is to make it read smoother, sound fancier, and stir the best emotion.
An editor makes your writing the best it could be. An editor helps you focus what you’ve written.
Editors come in all price ranges and intensities. I’m learning how invaluable that experience is. If you pay attention to what your editor is addressing, you’ll probably find that you do that a lot. You might even be able to find a writing buddy or three (Caps Chaps, FTW!) who are willing to read your stuff and provide that valuable feedback.
Whether your working on your first novel, or thinking about submitting an article to a magazine, I’m hoping that you’ve learned something about the importance (and value) of input. Having someone edit your work will not only make that story the best it could possibly be, but it will improve your overall writing!
Are you working on a project right now? Do you have something written that you’d like to have someone take a look at? Leave a comment! I’d love to connect you with some of the editors I know. They (most of them) don’t bite!