Personal · Writing Tips

Life, Death, and The Editor

You know those times when you have absolutely nothing to do so you don’t do anything? And then you get a great idea and you start to work on it and then everything happens at once? This seems to come in a monthly cycle in my life. For weeks, there was nothing. No writing work to do, no editing, no new novels to work on, and then I got an idea. And the moment I sat down the put pen to paper, I was barraged with other things to do. My editor sent back a draft with more changes to make. My friends sent back a first draft with it slashed to shreds (as first drafts are often want to become), and one of my clients emailed about a dozen articles to proofread. So much for getting anything done.

For many weeks, however – months, rather – I was out of ideas. Anything I thought of was dismissed quickly and quietly as though it didn’t stand a chance against my own critiques of myself. It hasn’t been an easy year, writing-wise. I’ve grown much more critical of the way I write and much more aware of my own faults. In some ways, this is a good thing. It helps me to improve and do better next time. On the other hand, it can sometimes leave me feeling inadequate and sad. It’s the inadequate and sad part that makes it hard to get back up again.

Although it has been hard to get myself going again, and every time I do, it seems like another round of lightening strikes me down, I do appreciate the hard critiques of my work. No one likes to be told that their work is bad or needs so much work that there’s no point in even trying but if the criticism is sound, it can help you learn. I’ve learned that I’m extremely weak when it comes to plotting and that I don’t always follow-through on my endings. It’s something I have to work on, something that will probably continue to come up in many more novels to come. No matter how many times someone tells you things, sometimes it’s born into you. I try to improve but things are still weak. This is why it’s imperative to have another set of eyes.

This other set of eyes needs to be someone who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth, who isn’t afraid of hurting your feelings (but they should do it constructively, not destructively or else there’s really no point). It needs to be someone who wants to help not just tear your work apart. It’s easy to tell someone their work is bad but it’s difficult to tell them why. I’m lucky (and sometimes cursed) to have people like that to help me. Yes, it sometimes feels terrible to read their comments and know that they’re right, but it’ll make your work better, and it’ll make you better.

They say writers need a tough skin, and that was something I didn’t have a few years ago. I’m getting better, much better. Of course, by now, I’ve accepted the fact that most of what I write will not be good, not for a long time. Perhaps my hopes have lowered and my standards have been raised. It doesn’t leave much room to meet in the middle. Still, I keep going because I have a tiny glimmer of hope that the end result will be worth it. It isn’t always easy and it isn’t always fun, but it is necessary.

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