A stranger said something nice about something I’d written. I always take situations like this fairly seriously. I’m new enough to writing that I’m flattered and grateful. I feel I should make some gesture of thanks. Flowers? Tasteful gift? That’s how grateful I am.
This time, it was easy to show my gratitude. The person who said something nice about me had a story up on Amazon. A few good reviews, the subject matter was right up my alley…I didn’t even bother looking inside the book, because that sucker was also FREE. I was going to leave a nice review, after I’d finished.
I read the story last night. Oh, wow. Disappointed. I wasn’t crushed, or anything. It wasn’t THAT bad. However, this is obviously a smart person who is new to fiction writing. Or, perhaps he isn’t new to fiction writing and he keeps making the same mistakes. In either event, the story was full of this brand of Detail Monster Awkwardness… John scratched his head in puzzlement. He reached his hand into his pocket and clasped the whistle between the first two fingers of his right hand. He gently withdrew the whistle from his pocket, slowly raised it to his lips with his hand, pursed his lips like he was kissing his first girl, placed the whistle against his lips, and then blew. (That isn’t from the story, by the way. I made it up for illustrative purposes, so don’t try to Google it to find out who I’m talking about.)
What my new best friend (he doesn’t know he’s my best friend) needs is an editor. We all need an editor. Most writers agree that they need an editor, and what they mean when they say “editor” is they really want a proofreader to fix spelling and grammar mistakes. Or they want a ghostwriter, because what they’ve done is crapped out some words and they want someone else to do the hard work. Or they want someone to kiss ass and say, “A+!!!! I couldn’t find one thing wrong with that!”
The amazing Jaye Manus is my editor. Boy, did she piss me off, the first time she edited one of my stories. SHE SUGGESTED I CHANGE MY GOLDEN WORDS! I had to take a break and smoke a cigarette, the first time out. Actually, I took a lot of breaks. I smoked a lot of cigarettes. It was hard going, for me.
Time marched on, I survived my first experience with being edited, and now I enjoy the process. It isn’t Jaye suggesting arbitrary changes, the way I thought it was that first time. It’s a discussion. It’s work to make my work better. It’s give and take. It teaches me, and I can see how much I’ve learned from Jaye when I go back and read my old stories and see things like Detail Monster Awkwardness.
If someone is editing you and it isn’t a process and a discussion, you need a better editor. If someone is editing you and you don’t learn something every time, you need a better editor. If nobody is editing you, you need an editor. Don’t put your work out there and charge people for it if it hasn’t been edited. I don’t mean proofed for errors. I mean edited.
I should send the flowers and tasteful gifts to Jaye.