From the Mind of an Editor

For writers to succeed, they must dig deep into minds foreign to their own.

The reader wants to feel the pain of a nine-year old boy who loses his family in an instant of fire, understand the turmoil of a emotionally scarred woman forced to trust a man who toppled a building and killed many of her friends, and yes, feel some empathy for a sadist who seeks to control people’s lives because he cannot control his own.

Whether or not I succeeded with the above characters, time will tell.

This sensitivity to others is crucial in finding an agent or publisher. I could complain and lament how they’re against me every time I receive a rejection slip, or just when I think a publisher will accept my genre, I read the words: "no science fiction" or "not accepting new clients at this time."

It’s a conspiracy, I tell ya!

I’m not writing and editing my manuscripts like I should. I’m "wasting" my time catching up on reading, and writing entries in this blog. 

One book I picked up again after reading it once about five years ago is "The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers" by Betsy Lerner.

I wanted to read it again, because I need to re-learn what life is like for an editor. If you thought writing wears a person out, try being an editor.

But that’s Part II of the book. The first part, Betsy describes six types of writers:

  1. The Ambivalent Writer
  2. The Natural
  3. The Wicked Child
  4. The Self-Promoter
  5. The Neurotic
  6. Touching Fire

I’m not revealing the kind of writer I am. You’ll have to guess. Ha! I tell ya, it’s quite illuminating. Yet Betsy describes writers and editors with compassion, irony and humor. You won’t feel preached at or torn down if you see yourself described in her pages.

Writers, in general, are a self-absorbed lot. It’s part of being a writer, I think. We wrap so much of who we are in every word we pen or type, they become our children. It’s no wonder when an article or book is rejected, we take it personal.

Publishing is a business. Editors and agents stand between the writer and the reader, making sure they give the readers what they want. That means having to reject manuscripts that don’t meet their standards of writing, genre or storyline. 

We could see each rejection as another nail in our writing career coffin, or use it as an opportunity to improve our manuscript — and our approach to publishers and agents.

I need to squelch my ego, and write my query letters and proposals with the eye of an over-worked editor who’s looking for that one gem in a mountain of manuscripts and query letters. That means following their guidelines as closely as I can, and write my queries with understanding and empathy — in as few words as possible. Their time is no less precious than mine.

Another desire of an editor is a writer who heeds an editor’s advice (although there is always room for debate). 

Writers sometimes see harsh critiques the same way as telling a parent their child is ugly. When I think like this I remember a piece of advice I read a few years back. I wish I remembered who wrote it and where so I could give proper appreciation. Because I’m going off memory, it’s paraphrased:

"When an editor tears apart your writing — your baby — you see a person grabbing the little one and slashing it with a knife. Your first instinct is to rescue the child and attack the person who dared try to destroy what you created. That’s not it at all. An editor is merely taking your child in his or her arms to give it a bath, put on a clean diaper, and dress it up to make it more presentable."

4 thoughts on “From the Mind of an Editor

  1. I picked this book up a while back, and it’s maybe my favorite book about writing that I’ve ever read. Very insightful and very honest. It helped me to understand me, and that’s not an easy task.

    Like

  2. Facing who we are is definitely not easy, but freeing when we accept it. How can we know how to improve ourselves otherwise?
    Thanks again for stopping by!

    Like

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