One of the hardest things for me as a writer is to hear critique on my writing. I know it’s
important, I know it needs to be given and received, I know how invaluable it is to hear to good, the bad, and the ugly of what I’ve written. How else am I to learn and grow? I can only do so much in editing my own work; there comes a point where I need to let go, and let someone else take a look. And not just a peek, but an in-depth study.
Whew! Just writing that made my breathing kick up a few notches!
Can any of you writers out there relate to this? How many of you employ the services of an editor?
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why having an editor is so important.
We all have pet phrases.
When I wrote Violet’s Daybreak, I created a heroine with debilitating shyness. Barely able to form a coherent sentence around strangers kind of shy. I’ve been there, and I wanted a character that could grow past it, as I (sometimes) have. But I over-used “blushed”…so much so that I’m sure my editor was pulling out hair during the reading of it. This was something that I hadn’t noticed I did, and certainly didn’t mean to do! And I’d never have caught it on my own. Instead, all my readers would be reading about an infuriating amount of blushing, flushing, flaming faces.
In working through it with my editor, I learned to think about more physical manifestations of shyness than just blushing: shortness of breath, trembling hands, inability to make eye contact, nervous fidgets, and I could go on! After making those changes, I saved the blushing for the really big stuff!
Sometimes, our brain sees what it wants to see.
Have you ever written something, even gone back through to self-edit it, and then left it for several weeks, months, or even years…only to return and find that it didn’t say what you thought it did? I’m sure many writers have experienced this, myself included. What was I thinking? The problem is that, as we write, and have an idea in our heads, sometimes that idea becomes stronger than our vision. We know what we mean, and even if the words don’t express that clearly, we still see what we mean. Example, you ask? Well, do I have one for you!
In my WIP (WIP stands for Work In Progress), a novel centering on a student of Dr. Martin Luther’s in Wittenberg, 1517. About halfway through a paragraph describing the student writing frantically during one of Luther’s lectures, I switch to the character thinking about the 95 Theses (Statements that Luther wanted to discuss in the theological/intellectual community of the time). While I want to include mention of it in the book, such an inorganic introduction will make it feel more like propaganda than a novel describing how the teaching of salvation by grace through faith touches and transforms the lives of those who hear it. I’m sure that at some point, I had an idea in my head of how to transition my character’s thought process more gently, but I can’t think of what it was now! In short, I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m just glad I was able to pick that out later.
An editor’s eyes are not our eyes.
If you are writing for yourself alone, you can ignore this post, as well as the need for an editor. However, if you want to write so that other people read your writing, remember that they do not have your eyes. They do not have your thoughts guiding their reading. This is where an editor can be really useful, because editors don’t have your eyes, either!
When I’ve finished a first draft, and done what I can on my own to perfect my writing, I do two things. First, I send it to my editor. Second, I send it to test readers. The feedback I receive helps me perfect my writing further and gives me a view on how others read what I’ve written. Oh, you think that character doesn’t seem very genuine? I can fix that! This scene doesn’t have enough detail? I can fix that! The opening has too much description and not enough action? I can fix that, too!
What other reasons can you think of to work with an editor?
If you are interested in learning whether I would be a good editor to work with on your writing, please go and check out my page, Editing. Whether you decide to go with me or not, I hope you will consider this important aspect of the process. Happy writing!