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Essential step aspiring authors skip

Posted By Jim Fletcher On 03/21/2013 @ 8:00 pm In Diversions | No Comments

A hallmark of most writers is ego as big as the Grand Canyon. Or Australia.

Most of us would deny such, but it’s basically true. A fellow writer once told me we must have huge egos to think anyone would want to read what we write. And the most demure of us are the worst offenders.

It’s my experience thus is true. After all, I’m a writer.

Money, quality and status are always uppermost on the minds of writers. Yet we often ignore some pretty important steps.

Like editing.

Most writers – most of us – are a one-man band, cranking out copy and column inches for the sheer tediousness of it. In other words, most of us are not writing the great American novel from the confines of a beach-side cottage in Massachusetts. We are what Paul Greenberg has called “inky wretches.”

We tend to overlook important points in the process, like making sure the writing is the best it can be – often more about simple copy editing, rather than turning a clever phrase or plot point.

Even Mark Twain scratched around on his manuscripts, with editing marks and notes. He obviously took the time, and if the greatest American writer would do that, the rest of us should do double time.

Take the time to make sure your writing is professionally done.

If you have the means, you can put a professional editing firm on retainer; just make sure their credentials check out.

For others, a budget might mean asking a crack editor for help – one who also happens to be an aunt, boyfriend or business associate. Offer to pay something.

Just make sure you send out the best possible piece you are capable of producing.

Another thing to remember when working with an editor is not to despise advice. Some editors are themselves “failed writers” and are bitter to some degree. When offered a job, no matter how small, they must prove how brilliant they are, so the red marks commence. Avoid this type of editor.

A good one, though, is an invaluable element in your writing career. If an editor feels you got too wordy on page 33, listen to her. Learn to be objective, one of the most elusive qualities a writer can possess. If an editor meets you over coffee and offers some helpful suggestions for tone or can help you shape plausible dialogue, LISTEN!

It is also helpful to learn patience, especially working with an editor who also has a life and priorities, just like you. I’ve worked with people who let it be known, even subtly, that their work is the Most Important of All Time. These people will call or email at all hours, ignore your note that now is not the best time, etc. I work with such people … once. Please note how you would feel if you were asked to edit someone’s work. Learn to be patient and wait for them to do their job.

If he or she doesn’t do the job in a timely manner, it works both ways: Don’t work with such an editor again.

Lastly, don’t forget to work out a tight process, including payment schedule. There’s nothing worse than a loose arrangement in the beginning, followed by hurt feelings over murky memories. Get it in writing and hit the mark. After all, such discipline is a requirement for a real writer. One must be disciplined at each step of the process.

Another bugaboo for some writers often afflicts those who are most uptight. This involves obsessive worry over minor errors. Look, the first printing of “War and Peace” probably had a truckload of them. Correct them, absolutely, but then move on. Charles Darwin made so many corrections to “On the Origin of Species,” the current form could almost be described as someone else’s work.

Errors in editing are commonplace, but they are not acceptable; remember that. I use several editors and am convinced that they are an invaluable part of the writing process.

Because, remember always, editing mistakes in the Age of the Internet can often be all too pubic.


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