This article first appeared over at Write Anything
Becoming a professional – or serious amateur writer is not only a matter of skill and an certain amount of pure talent; but it must be coupled with a large helping of the right attitude. Much of this attitude needs to be directed at the ego and in particular taking constructive criticism. Its been said in a number of industries that the sign of an amateur who will not ‘make it’ unless they change dramatically; are those whose egos are bigger than their bank balance. It certainly applies to writing , specifically when seeking feedback on ones work and gaining editing notes in preparation for submissions for competitions or publishing.
Editing, as most readers well know, is the process of revising your text to correct obvious errors and mistakes but it is to then revise it and refine a number of times to achieve the best possible result. Dependant upon what outcome you may have for the piece of text, will depending how it needs to be edited.
Editing is part of a four part attitude –
- Make use of good quality reference sources. ( you don’t want to get caught out by using facts which are not quite right)
- Accept that editing is a sustained and continuous part of writing
- Be ruthless in making and accepting changes and cuts – don’t fall in love with your words and keep passages because you like them.. They must add to and keep the story / text rolling.
- Carry out your editing to the end – to the finest detail – no half arsed efforts
A common fear from writers who have not had their work edited before is that the editor will change their words around so much that it no longer ‘belongs’ to the original writer. A good editor will suggest changes, mark areas for improvement and give some guidance on character development and plot inconstancies. As the writer, you have the opportunity to take up this advice or to ignore it. However, the editor usually has a good grasp of what is saleable, or appropriate for the market or outcome you have employed them to look at your work for; and it would be foolish to completely ignore their advice.
A writer can self edit, but it is best to have a number of beta readers and to employ the services of an editor to polish work for submission. Narcissism is a fatal weakness amongst writers. After all, we birth our words and fall in love with them. We will do whatever it takes in order for those words to continue to live on the page and take it as a personal affront should an editor be heartless enough to suggest it needs cutting. The professional writer looks at a piece of texts and assesses every word, ensuring its survival based on its need within the text. The key is to have no regrets as the piece of text is better for the deletion or remodelling. Self indulgence has no place amongst professional writing.
One of the most valuable things you can do as a writer, seeking to improve your craft, is to give feedback to others on their work and to offer to be a beta reader. Its often said that others serve as mirrors to your own life. The same can be said within the writing world. Once you begin to recognise critically the difference between long winded or self indulgent text and tight prose, you eyes will be opened to the next stage in your development as a writer. Take editing notes and feedback on the chin. See if for what it is and decide how you will use it to improve your work. Look at the feedback honestly and see if its your ego being attacked, rather than the work itself.
Over at Write Anything we have discussed appropriate ways to give feedback and its merits. There is also an opportunity every week to publish a first draft of a short story using a prompt, and to then give and receive constructive criticism.
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