Anyone who writes appreciates how much work it is—in fact, the better the writing, the more likely that writer has spent many hundreds—even thousands—of hours working to hone his or her skills. Yet, no matter how experienced the writer, one skill in particular that must be honed (but is often undervalued) is the ability to learn from constructive criticism. Unless your writing is hidden away under lock and key, you need a thick skin: as a writer, you need to learn how to deal with feedback.
In this final part of a three-part series on an editor’s skill set (If you missed them, here are Part I: Research, Observation, and Brevity and Part II: Accuracy and Honesty), I’ll share my thoughts about how your resilience as a writer relates to the editing work I do.
In my humble opinion, a writer writes because he or she has no choice but to write.
If writing is your passion, if you can’t survive without it (even when the words don’t want to come), if writing is your lifeline/hobby/therapy/getaway/drug of choice, then you must write. Plaster affirmations around your writing area to motivate yourself when you have writer’s block, and find someone who believes in you to give you pep talks when you need them.
Most of all, believe in yourself, even if you aren’t yet good enough to be published. If you write, you are a writer, and you don’t need a publishing contract or a book to prove that to anyone.If you write, you are a writer, and you don’t need a publishing contract or a book to prove… Click To Tweet
My job as your editor
When I put on my editor’s hat, I keep in mind what has gone into writing the manuscript I’m working on. I didn’t agonize over those words for days or weeks or months—you did that, and I have a great deal of respect for your creative process.
But you hire an editor to help you make those words the best they can be, so part of my job is to let you know when I think something doesn’t work.
I know as well as anyone how difficult it is to hear criticism of your work. But it is important to be open to new ideas if you want to produce the best work possible and grow as a writer.
When I give you my editorial opinion, it is just that—my opinion—but it is influenced by my experience as a professional editor. That’s why you decide to hire an editor in the first place, right? You’re not paying me to merely issue a stream of compliments (though I do love to give them whenever they are deserved)—you hire a professional editor to help you see things you didn’t see, offer ideas you might not have considered, and polish your work.
But I get it: knowing that doesn’t make criticism—even constructive criticism—any easier to swallow.
My advice to writers when they get back their edited manuscripts is to take a deep breath, read through the edits with as much emotional distance as possible, and remember that your editor wants your work to be the best it can be. Suggestions—whether to restructure a scene, delete a character, add a sentence, or change a word—are all made from the educated viewpoint of a professional who has a good understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”—Abraham Lincoln
One of life’s most difficult lessons is that not everyone will love you or what you do—and that’s okay. As a writer, take the constructive part of whatever feedback you receive and learn from it to become an even better writer. When I work with you, I consider myself a member of your writing team, and team members have the same goal: to create the best possible product.
When your product is something as personal as your writing, it can be difficult not to take criticism as a personal affront, but the beauty of working with an editor is that you have the opportunity to polish your writing with someone who is rooting for you and offers constructive feedback, not criticism. Work with your editor or writing coach to understand how making those changes will strengthen your writing, and you’ll find yourself growing as a writer. That’s money well spent!
Image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.
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