It’s a Craft
December 7, 2015 § 33 Comments
In my email today, from an author for whom I did a sample edit:
…I will read through your comments and have an answer for you by next week. I was told today by another editor to stop writing and trash the book. I don’t have the talent! Sigh. Thanks goodness for chocolate.
First, did you know you get to shop around if you’re hiring an editor for your manuscript? Because you do. You can get a short “sample edit” of anywhere from 2-10 pages–some editors charge for that, some don’t–and compare what you get to see who feels like a good fit.
Second, I am so mad I want to cry, spit blood, and slash someone’s tires.
How dare she. (Most editors are women.) How dare she.
How dare she establish herself as the arbiter of not just quality, but whether or not someone is allowed to make art.
How dare she tell a beginner, a first-time novelist on her second draft, of whose book the editor has seen a single chapter, to stop. Not even to finish and then write another draft or ten more drafts or a hundred more drafts.
And yes, we as writers must develop thick skins because our world will be full of no, but this is not the time and “freelance editor” is not the position to dish that out.
Maybe the editor hated the book. Maybe it reminded her of her alcoholic ex-boyfriend or her emotionally distant mother or the book she was forced to read in middle school that turned her off reading forever or her own failed work. She’s allowed to feel that way. And then write a short, pleasant email along the lines of, I’m sorry, I’m not a good fit for this project, thank you for considering me.
But “stop writing”?
Thank goodness I was online when the email came, because no writer should have to go to sleep with that.
…that editor is wrong wrong wrong. I’d like to slash her damn tires, because that’s just mean and hurtful. It’s not a strong testimony to her editing skills that she doesn’t think she can help you show off what you’re good at and improve where you can grow.
Sure, you have some technical elements that will get better and better as you write, but writing a book is not some special secret talent that only magic ordained-by-writer-gods people get to have. Writing a book is a craft, and craft gets better with practice.
You’re a beginner. You’re ready to make big mistakes and big discoveries and god bless the delete button and the ability to save multiple files. We fall off when we learn to ride bicycles, we make sketches in weird proportions when we first make visual art, we burn soup when we first start cooking, and we’re not perfect writers the first time out.
Go eat more chocolate and think how satisfying it will be when your book comes out and that editor sees it.
Don’t let anyone tell you no. Don’t let your mother or your boyfriend or your best writer friend or your memories of your sixth-grade English teacher frowning at your paper and giving you a check-minus tell you no. And when they do (and they will) smile sweetly, mentally slash their tires, and tell yourself yes.
Allison K Williams is Brevity‘s Social Media Editor and helps authors develop manuscripts as The Unkind Editor. Apparently she’s not.