Thursday, January 20, 2011

You can lead an author to water...

I've come to the conclusion, over the past half-decade that I've been editing text professionally, that there are two kinds of writers: those who grasp every opportunity to improve their writing and those who think an editor can wave a magic wand and make everything better.

I've worked with both kinds. The former go on to become successful authors. The latter continuously turn in manuscripts with the same typographical and grammatical errors, and the same issues that dog their writing (this makes me look bad if anyone says I was their editor).

Unfortunately (for me) the former belong to a group from whom I see "in kind" repayment or are authors I am contracted to edit, for which I see very little financial compensation. But, you know what? I don't mind. I love what I do and am absolutely thrilled when I see proactive authors go from strength to strength. It feels like team effort and, when others sit up and take note, it's even more fantastic. Money would be nice, but it's not everything.

But the last group... People, please. Just because you throw money at me doesn't mean I alone will make your manuscript shine. You are paying me to offer you one-on-one expertise. It breaks my heart when I see you haven't absorbed anything I've taught you. I can't make your manuscript better. You must. I can show you what you're doing wrong. I can offer advice, but you must make the effort to absorb these teachings, inscribe them on your heart and mind, and grow.

And I've honestly reached the point where I'm no longer interested in taking on paying clients unless their manuscript already displays a fair degree of skill in self-editing. How do you get there? Join an online writers' group. Buy "how to" books. There are so many good resources out there. I'm going to share one that will offer you a plethora of useful information:

This site has a forum where just about everyone who's everyone hangs out. Go there. That's an excellent starting point. Work hard, learn from your mistakes. But please, learning to write is an art, not a science, and it requires hours of dedicated practice, of listening to your critique partners. The mark of a successful writer is someone who can work hard to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

All the expensive creative writing courses in the world or spiffy editors won't help you unless you take it upon yourself to take a critical look at your writing and ask, "How do I improve?"

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