July 24, 2007

Writers & Editors

Many of you who write to me are writers, or writers-in-waiting. You ask for advice (though I don't have much depth in the field - I've only been at it a few years - I help where I can), and sometimes direction.

One of the first things I always say is that you need an editor. Not your mom, not your spouse, not your best friend. It can't be someone who is going to love anything you do because they either love you, or love anything they read. Not gonna help.

This is the best thing I've read in a while on editors. It's in Salon today. I love love love the description of what a great editor is, and how they help the writer. And only an idiot writer turns down help.

My learning curve in this business has been abrupt, and there have been days I am just swinging by my fingernails. Writing is such a personal thing to do, and yet you turn it out for anyone to read. And then you sit back and wait for the punches. A great editor will do one of two things: show you how to avoid those punches, or help you prepare for them. There are times that someone hating what you write isn't such a bad thing. What's tough is when you're surprised.

The piece is essentially mourning the lack of the editing process in so much web-produced content these days (like my blog entries!), and while I believe there is a place for the naked, raw impact of some sites, I also dread a loss of structure and guidance in the more formal world. Writing is a harsh business; you'd better be prepared to walk through flames to make it.

So, cheers to my wonderful editors. I've been blessed, and benefited from many years of expertise in a very short time. Their names are on the mastheads of my papers - they'll probably kill me for listing them here in case they think they're going to get blamed for some of the stuff I publish.

There are others I trust implicitly who aid and abet even when it's not their job. You develop tight, odd little relationships with those who know the real you. Especially when they wisely prevent you from showing it to anyone else.


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