Take Charge of Your Writing

You know why most of us write, right? (ahahaha) Because we have a story we want to tell. We may or may not care if anyone else reads it, but we want to see what happens, how the characters change, and we want to experience new things.

So we write the story, and then we may or may not enter the editing phase. And here’s where things get a bit weird. Some people, when they get to this stage just…give up. They figure they did their best the first time around, and now they need someone more experienced to help them.

This isn’t necessarily bad. Getting feedback is a good thing. It helps you tighten the story, fix plot holes, expand character arcs, up the stakes, and, on a more nitpicky note, points out everywhere you need commas where they have mysteriously wandered off. Feedback is good.

What is bad is what I occasionally see in my editing career. I will occasionally get authors that give me their novel and say, “Kit, you are better at this than I am, so I want you to rewrite my story for me.”

No. This is bad. If you want to be an author, if you want a career writing books, then you need to learn. And the best way to learn is by figuring out where you went wrong. If I am better than you at it, it’s because I have a ridiculous amount of practice.

But I also have my own way that I like to write stories, my own voice, and the last thing I want to do is write your story for you. I have my own stories. I will help you whatever way you want to help you get your story done, but it is your story. (And, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, the random editor you hire? Probably doesn’t particularly care about your story. I work in my non-favorite genres all the time for clients. They’re not going to do your story justice because it doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does to you.)

There is no easy way to do this. You’re only cheating yourself if you give your story away. You may get an end product you’re happy with, something that may or may not be better than what you could have done on your own, but you’re cheating yourself, denying yourself the opportunity to grow. And there is the very real possibility that you will get your story back and find that you hate it, that the editor has managed to kill everything that made your story special to you, or you hate their writing style, or whatever.

It’s your story. See it through to the end.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by E. A. Hughes on 2012/05/21 at 11:11 AM

    This is a great post. Thanks. There are too many people who have a vague inclination to write but doubt their own ability. With writing, practice does indeed make — maybe not perfect, but better at least!


  2. There is a lot of truth in what you say. I would only add that there are various levels of editing that can go in different directions. At a high level (ie. substantive editing) A writer really needs to learn how to take critical comments and reshape things in a good way. David Bischoff, the editor I work with, is quite soft spoken and never rewrites. He simply points out a number of issues that I must then tackle. Sometimes I wish he would be more direct and say: fix this, and this, and this…but in the end his soft approach is easier to accept, and let’s me grow as a writer.

    However, at the line/copy editing phase things are a bit more direct. I find line editing follows the dogma of grammar/spelling and style to a greater degree. As such, I’m more flexible to allow direct changes to be made. However, there’s a line to draw here. For example, with one’s choice of adverbs/adjectives. IMO, some line editors have rules they follow too robotically. Don’t use too many adverbs. Only include adjectives if the text demands it. While other editors may go for the poetic sound that such words have in total. For me there are only guidelines, and rules are meant to be broken (as long as you’re aware there is a rule).

    In the end, no matter what kind of editing it is: authors must be comfortable with their editors. And if you find that you don’t need one? You lucky dog! 🙂


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