Write it–Don’t Toss Your Story in Flames

DSCN2318We’ve all witnessed scenes in movies where an author tosses a manuscript into the flames. And many real life novelists and story writers destroyed their work in this way. Now a days, it’s too easy to “select all” and “delete”. But wait a minute…

We must remember that the writing process is subjective and our egos often, if not always, run the show. The ego shows us polished work of a famous author leaving us to believe that we’ll never experience that success. But why are we comparing our first or second draft of our first novel to a New York Times Best-Selling author’s work? I know I’ve fallen into this trap and if I’ve done it, so have thousands, if not millions of other aspiring and even veteran authors. I drove myself crazy comparing my memoir to Liz Gilbert’s phenomenal success.

But let’s get realistic here. After you read the last page of that best-seller that caused you to cringe over your own manuscript, check out the acknowledgement page. You’ll see a long list of editors, fellow writers who critiqued the manuscript, the agent, former writing teachers, MFA professors, and possibly a writing group in the acknowledgements. We have come to believe that writing is a solo process, but in actuality, it takes a team to publish a novel, and that does include the graphic artist, photographer, and public relations department.

What we fail to see with the finished product include the first few drafts with notes and corrections in red ink. We fail to see the many attempts the author took to polish a chapter or even the sentence that launches the story or the final paragraph that leave the readers satisfied or wanting more. We don’t see the writing conferences the author attended or the workshops they enrolled. We don’t see the number of rejection letters from agents and or editors who sometimes left suggestions for improvements. We also don’t see the times when even that author wanted to douse their novel in flames.

So if your novel appears problematic, then join a writing critique group on or offline (although some critique groups are insufferable, I admit). Or attend a writing conference and go to the workshops that speak out to your work. Get your ego under control by learning spiritual practices such as yoga (breathing gives us space), meditation, or reading self-help books. Find someone whose opinion you trust who will critique with a firm, yet sensitive hand, such as a writing mentor.

Get a list of your novels strength and weaknesses, then research ways to solve the weaknesses and bolster the strength. There are no excuses in regard going online to a site such as Writers Digest or picking up writing books or magazines at the library. I’ve done this at various steps on my writing path. Also you might have to trim the fat of your novel and start from a blank page. Perhaps, deleting a character or twisting the plot inspires you to write a better novel. Deleting a paragraph, chapter, or character is not the same as tossing your novel into a lit fireplace. Although it’s also less dramatic and writers adore drama.

You can also place the novel in a file (computer or hard copy) and store it until you feel inspired to return to the novel. Start your next novel using the new tools and practices you gained from the first novel. And don’t do what I did and rewrite all your previous novels because you compare your current mastery to your more innocent efforts. And whatever you do, be your best advocate and supporter. Don’t put yourself down or say that you’ll never succeed as a novelist. If you feel a strong desire to write novels and that desire comes from your heart, then keep moving forward.

You’ll get there when you get there. And if it makes you feel any better, I started writing fiction in my thirties and I’m turning 52–the proud author-mama of five unpublished novels. I’m not giving up though. I love the stories that come to me, I enjoy the writing process and I’m sure I will enjoy publication of all my novels in good time. I wish you success too.

If you would like an astrology-coaching session from a multimedia artist, sign up at my blog Whole Astrology. Also visit Metaphysics 4 Everyday Living. And keep on writing.

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Story–Found Objects

DSCN3139Mirabel picked another playing card off the street.  This time she found the Queen of Hearts leading her to wonder when she’d meet her next lover.  She ambled on the empty street reaching her cluttered apartment.  As she squeezed in the door, her cat greeted her with purrs and rumbles.

Mirabel answered a phone’s ring.  One of her other found objects, a waif she met at a bus stop, lamented on the other end.  “Mirabel, you’re not going to believe this!”

A sigh escaped Mirabel’s throat.

The found object, Roxanne continued.  “I saw him with another woman just after he had broken it off with me.  Can you believe that?”

Yes, Mirabel believed because she often professed that she knew what lurked in men’s hearts.  Unlike Roxanne, Mirabel knew how to play the game, look out for signs, and leave a man before he abandoned her.  But not all women possessed that gift, obviously not Roxanne.

As the minutes ticked past, Mirabel purred a feminine response into the receiver while Roxanne ruminated over the details.  Perhaps, Mirabel thought, the Queen of Hearts was meant for Roxanne, the Queen of Broken Hearts.  After all not everyone can play the game of lost and found. While it certainly wasn’t fair, she categorized her friend as a lost cause.  Of course, she sympathized but after a few dramatic moments, she wrenched the receiver away from her ear.

After she hung up on Roxanne, Mirabel placed her new card on her altar of found objects.  Lately she begun to resemble a patron saint of lost causes, of discarded sentiments, and failed dreams.  But she realized that she couldn’t fix other people’s lives and she didn’t care about that any longer.  In the past, she recycled other people’s trash, dated men on the rebound, and added more found objects to her cluttered home.

Not long ago she took in a stray cat that she named Orphan.  And she often caught herself describing the tabby as a feline Oliver Twist to the people that passed through her life.  When she had time to daydream, she conjured up images of the artists, intellectuals, and self-proclaimed gypsies that she’d met.  They faded from her life like a sepia tone photograph, but she never truly forgot them.

She wondered about the whereabouts of the Latino intellectuals encountered in cafes or the French man she bedded for over six months while earning her graduate degree in theatre.  Though the past haunted her, she dismissed the present, and quietly waiting for her future to appear like objects found on a Quixotic quest to nowhere in particular.

Ticking another Monday off her calendar, Mirabel stared out at the fog-drenched landscape while fingering her lace curtains confiscated from a garage sale.  She pulled on a pair of red sweats and then stretched like a ballerina.  Stuffing her feet into overpriced running shoes, she chased away guilty thoughts about sweatshop labor.  After all, she rationalized, life is one great compromise and saying “no” to Nike wouldn’t debunk the patriarchal system’s greed posing as healthy commerce.  Like the sweatshop workers, she also felt like a victim of the system.

Moments later she lumbered up a bike trail, dripping sweat and gasping for breath.  When she peered into the distance, she noticed a lone figure lounging on a bench.  As the fog lifted like a curtain, she stopped and regained her composure, still staring at the figure on the bench.  Intrigued she approached the bench and noticed an attractive man with curly brown hair and hazel eyes.

But did he already belong to someone?  It could go either way.  Men have a way of telling women they’re not available by mentioning their partner in their greeting.  “My girlfriend also likes jogging in the park.  Or my wife recommended this park to me.”  They said that so Mirabel would know that she didn’t have a place in their paint-by-number lives.

Taking her chances, Mirabel plopped down on the bench and she studied her found object’s face.

The found object titled his head coyly.  “So what brings you here?”

Mirabel chuckled, “That sounds like a pickup line from a bar.”

“Doesn’t anyone engage in small talk anymore?”

“Personally, I despise small talk.  There are other ways to break the ice.”

“Go on and tell me about these alternatives.”

“I didn’t say that I was an expert on the subject, only that I despise small talk.  It has a dumbing down effect on us.”

The man looked down at his feet, most likely feeling dejected.  Mirabel softened her approach.

“I’d be willing to find out.”

“You’d be willing to find out what?”

“…if you’re interested in me.”

The man laughed nervously.  “Who are you?”

Mirabel stared deeply into the man’s eyes.  “I secretly refer to myself as the Queen of Found Objects.”

The man extended a carefully manicured hand to Mirabel.  “I’m Denis and I don’t secretly refer to myself as anything.  Why do you call yourself the Queen of Found Objects? Are you bitter or poetic?”

“Perhaps I’m bitter, but that’s not why I collect.  It’s a game I started playing when I was a child so that I could understand my relationship towards the world better.  Then as I grew into an adult, I didn’t want to act like another mindless consumer with a habit for quick disposal. That’s when I started collecting other people’s refuse.”

Denis chuckled.  “So are you a trash collector or a scavenger out to do a service for humankind?”

Mirabel shook her head.  “Neither.  I’m a writer who reached the conclusion that we live in a throwaway society and that has turned us into heartless consumer robots.  We toss out animals when we no longer want pets, we break up with lovers over trivial matters, and we consume like nobody’s business.”

Denis nodded.

A week later, Denis waited at a table in a cramped café and on occasion he stared up from his newspaper and scanned the street.  He spied Mirabel dashing across the street.  He gasped as a VW Bug nearly swiped her.

Unscathed Mirabel sauntered into the café shaking out mist from her red hair. She plopped down in a seat across from Denis and her green eyes stared at the steam that rose from Denis coffee cup.  She brushed bangs off her forehead while Denis explored the contours of her face.

“Would you like something to eat or do you prefer to dig your dinner from the trash?”

Mirabel smirked, “I bet that comment amuses you.  I prefer to order my food fresh and I eat it like a normal person.  And since you asked, yes, I’m hungry.  If you’re offering to buy me lunch, I’ll have a baguette with salmon pate and a cup of Joe.”

Denis swaggered to the counter to place the order. Mirabel waited patiently at the table chuckling at the absurdity of the situation.

After learning that Denis had been unattached for two years, Mirabel dragged him to her apartment.  She saw no reason for making the poor man wait another two years before she properly laid him. Besides, even if she wouldn’t admit it to herself it had been over two years since she attached to any found object.  She reached for Denis’ belt, but he pulled away from her.

“Wait.  Now you’d tell me if you’ve collected any diseases?”

“I think you’re taking this game too far. I insist that you take responsibility and use a condom.”

Denis groaned then raced toward the door.  “Right, I shall return.”

Panting, Mirabel fell onto her bed, the mismatched sheets she rescued from a sales rack at a thrift store.  Meanwhile Orphan leaped up onto the bed recognizing an opportunity for an all body massage and reminding Mirabel to feed her.  Mirabel responded on cue and Orphan purred a habitual response.

Moments later, Mirabel stretched out on her stomach lifted a needle of an old phonograph and she dropped it onto a John Coltrane album that she inherited from her older brother. The bluesy saxophone vibrated throughout the apartment and marked Denis’ arrival.  He waved a pack of condoms in front of his flushed face and then tossed them at Mirabel.

“Oh, I see the conquering hero has returned with the goods.”

She ripped open a condom package with her teeth.  She placed it on the nightstand as Denis tentatively approached her.  She unbuttoned his silk shirt then she slid her hands over his smooth chest.

“I adore a smooth chest.  The last one was too hairy for my taste.”

Denis caressed Mirabel’s hands.  “You know, beggars can’t be choosy.”

Mirabel chuckled, “Are you calling me a beggar?”

Denis shushed Mirabel with his lips on her mouth.  She didn’t mind and she reached to undo Denis’ belt buckle.  “Allow me to do the honors.”

Denis yanked Mirabel’s flowery dress over her head and then he yanked off her bra and tossed it across the room where it entangled on a curtain rod.  Mirabel pushed Denis down onto the bed and she struggled to pull off his jeans. She laughed at his boxers, but felt pleased with what hid underneath.  At least he was modest and his goods underneath baggy clothing.  They made love while the confused cat watched from a perch on the windowsill.

A string of dreaded Mondays and six months passed unnoticed by the blissful Mirabel whose days wrapped themselves in sexual experimentation and divine ecstasy.  As she glided down a neighborhood street, she found herself relishing that she found love without domestic strings attached.  Not once had Denis mentioned marriage and any time she waited on him hand-in-foot it was her choice and not because he demanded that she play the role of the love slave.  However, Denis interrupted Mirabel’s normal routine and she slowly lost pieces of her soul along the way.

On good days she could at least remember her name, but on bad days, she felt that Denis recreated her in his image.  Mirabel realized that Denis had never abused her in any way and he made no demands.  But why did she gladly give herself completely to him and stay stuck in someone else dream? She worried that Denis dreamed her and caused her to lose her identity.

Realizing that their roles had reversed, Mirabel phoned Roxanne.  Mirabel’s friend had surrendered to her unattached status nicely.  The irony didn’t escape Mirabel. Was she a found object now?

The friends met at a café even though Roxanne wondered if Mirabel’s desperate vibe would bring her bad luck.  After all, no one wanted a distraught friend hanging around them.  Life was precarious as it were so why push your luck?

Roxanne munched on lettuce and tomatoes while Mirabel nibbled on a croissant.  Mirabel confessed, “He’s wonderful.  How could I ask for a better partner?”

Confused and frustrated, Roxanne let out a sigh.  “If he’s so perfect then why are you acting like a martyr?”

Mirabel wiped a tear from her eye.  “Because I’m losing myself and my routine has changed.  Because I forgot the rules to my game, because I forgot when to discard a lover.”

“What is it that you don’t get? You can’t go around looking for signs of when to dump a lover.  It’s not about symbols strewn along your path.  Denis isn’t some stray, but a human with needs.”

Mirabel sobbed uncontrollably into her napkin, attracting the attention of other café dwellers.  Roxanne looked on with an embarrassing expression zooming across her otherwise placid face.  She shot a nervous grin at a particularly earnest customer.  She whispered to Mirabel, “Get a grip, girl.”

Mirabel blew her nose.  “Show me some compassion.”

“I’m here aren’t I? What more do you want from me? Do you want me to dredge up some emotion portrayed in a movie of the week?”

Laughter erupted from Mirabel’s throat lightening Roxanne’s mood.

“Look, you’ll find yourself again and it’s not the end of the world because some man loves you.  I should be so lucky.  Your pain comes from you growing roots.  And you’re not losing your soul at all.”

Mirabel wiped her nose on the sleeve of her sweater.  “I don’t quite follow you.”

“Don’t you see that you’re not some changeling that landed on this planet out of nowhere? That’s your fantasy that you use to cover up your feelings because you feel too deeply.  I think Denis shown you a new way to define yourself. He has melted your hard heart.”

“That’s not it at all! You’re projecting your own fantasy on me and giving Denis way too much credit.  I don’t believe that men come into our lives to send our roots in the ground.  And I don’t believe that he’s melted my heart.  It’s not made out of butter, you know.”

In a huff, Roxanne rose from her chair and tossed dollar bills on the table.  “Yeah, I can’t help you.  If you think you have all the answers then I’m not going to sit here and play therapist.”

Mirabel watched helplessly as Roxanne exited onto the street, her lifeline striding away, and out of reach.  Was Roxanne right?

***

The park awaited another visit.  As Mirabel strolled through the leafy surroundings, she returned to her old habit of picking up stray objects as she went along.  She found a pen and a discarded notebook.  She found another playing card, the King of Clubs which she stuffed into a coat pocket for later.  She considered writing Denis a letter, but after scribbling nonsense and crumpling note after note, she tossed another attempt in the trash.  She couldn’t write the letter because her thoughts seemed fuzzy to her.  Maybe Roxanne was right, but then everybody seemed right those days.

Mirabel swallowed everyone else’s words as her own and she even mimicked other people’s sentiments.  She wondered where she started and other people stopped.

A stray dog passed by her and when he glanced at her she saw nothing reflected in his eyes.  There’s nobody home.  Had she ever acted authentic in her life? Had she become a conglomeration of advertisements, of statistics spat out by Barbie doll cutouts posing as news anchorwomen; of theories explored by psychoanalytical professionals and hack journalists sputtering juicy adjectives?

As she delved further into her psyche she wondered about the blank canvas she’d become and others projected their fantasy onto or even worse, their greatest fears.  Their psyches were constructed from a collection of recycled thoughts passed down from one generation to the next in the form of a broken record. They were manufactured from discarded theories belonging to scientists and academics from a bygone era; from fractured religious ideologies that no one bothered to question any longer. Now, Mirabel felt like rebelling; but against whom?

If she could awake from the collective nightmare called the human experience then what would happen next? Although others had called her an individual her, she realized that she could never free herself from collective thought. She reached the conclusion that the reason why she never sank down roots was because she never found firm foundation to hold her. She had never felt safe anywhere so she created walls to protect herself and those same walls crumbled leaving her vulnerable to the whims of madness.  However, she couldn’t give up on herself. She had awakened and that was a good start as any.

Mirabel wrote that letter to Denis and then she enclosed the playing card. She slipped it into the mail not knowing what would transpire.  A week later, she met Denis at an art house theatre. He arrived late smiling as he strode past a line of disgruntle moviegoers.  He embraced Mirabel, truly happy to see her puzzled face.

“How did you know that I was a Rohmer fan?”

Mirabel planted a kiss on Denis’ mouth.  “I didn’t.  But I thought that I’d put you through the wringer and see if you could pass my test.”

“And what test was that?”

“I can’t tell you and it doesn’t matter in anyway.  You passed it with flying colors.”

“I don’t get you.  How can I pass a test that I wasn’t even aware of? You said in your letter that you were through with your strange games.”

Mirabel grabbed Denis hand and dragged him to the door and through the lobby.  “There’s one last game that I have no choice but to participate.”

Denis stared pensively at Mirabel’s face.  “What game is that?”

“It’s the game of life.”

A week later Mirabel found a playing card, the Queen of Hearts. She stuffed the card into her pocket then strode to her apartment.  She heard the phone ringing as she squeezed through the door.  Orphan greeted her, hungry again.  And Roxanne lamented on the other end of the receiver.

“You’re not going to believe this.”

But Mirabel believed all of Roxanne’s drama. She listened for thirty minutes then wrenched her ear away from the phone and hung up the receiver.  Her eyes darted to the altar of found objects.

Pulling on a pair of familiar sweats Mirabel decided to go for a jog in the park.  She stuffed her feet in overpriced running shoes while rationalizing that she was as much as victim as the sweatshop workers.

She lumbered up a trail, sweaty and breathless.  That’s when she spotted a man, a lone shadowy figure sitting on a bench. After regaining her composure, she approached him. She considered she’d learn about his relationship status within the first paragraph of their encounter.

Mirabel also considered that if the man was available then she’d reconsider discarded sentiments recycled from stale greeting cards.  Nothing original existed anymore, but that didn’t mean that she gave up living.

On the contrary, she thought humanity kept weaving the dream hoping to find fragments of ourselves that when pieced together, created a whole human.

Story by Patricia Herlevi

All Rights Reserved

 

Write it–Detachment & The Pitch

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Photo by Patricia Herlevi

I started pitching my work to editors and agents back in the 1990s. And if I use the fishing metaphor, the fish nibbled and even bit into my baits. I also received rejections which stung more in my younger years and miraculously don’t sting any longer for the following reasons.

I researched the animal we call a literary agent. Well, actually literary agents appear to be human and have the same feelings as authors. Many literary agents seem approachable because of their humanity and their passion for literary work. However, agents speak a different language than authors at times. They speak about platforms, awards, the marketplace, and editorial concerns. And it helps if authors learn this language.

Agents have preferences which these days we can easily research online. Veteran agents appear in numerous articles especially with magazine sites such as Writers Digest. And you can follow tweets or Face Book pages for the newer agents. Check out sites such as Absolute Writer and Manuscript Wish List. This leads to my next point. Stop believing in limitations–that there aren’t enough agents to go around.

It’s true that from 2008 to 2012 literary agencies were closing offices or merging with other agencies and this gave the impression that authors didn’t have a chance of signing a deal with an agent. Numerous authors such as myself decided to go the self-publishing route. And I also noticed that many self-published authors treated literary agents and traditional book publishers as enemies–big mistake.

Since there is an abundance of literary agents, it’s easier to detach from rejections. And the best approach is to put a list together and then go down the list knowing that the right agent will appear (eventually). Some authors hit the jackpot on the first or second try because they did their research and wrote an approachable pitch.

Early on, I sent out mediocre pitches and I didn’t do my research, but was still surprised when literary agents rejected my work. And then I punished myself and wasted time at the pity party instead of polishing my pitch, attend a writing workshop, or get online where agents hang out, such as on Twitter. While I don’t believe that a writer needs to develop thicker skin, I do believe that detachment and mindfulness prevent meltdowns when the rejections show up (as they do for most authors).

On a metaphysical note, meditate before contacting agents. This places you in a positive frame of mind and since we’re all connected, the agent feels your positive energy when they read your pitch.

Another warning that comes from my experiences, don’t quit the day job in hopes that an agent will help you win a big advance. True, many new authors have received large advances in the past that transformed their lives, but other authors receive small advances which hardly paythe bills. Find other work on the side such as copy editing, teaching for a lifelong learning program at a college, proofreading or blogging professionally while writing novels.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket or treat an agent as the answer to your prayers. I have heard stories of authors landing deals with agents that eventually dropped the authors because they couldn’t see the books to publishers. There are no guarantees. Signing with an agent does not mean you have sold your book. And you’ll not see any money until you receive an advance (and don’t sign with a book publisher who offers you no advance).

Successful authors build platforms through Face Book and other social media. I started this blog and launched this author website knowing that building a platform for me is a slower process. Authors with bigger personalities or brands attract followings much quicker. Experiment with blogs, social media, and YouTube channels. In fact, create a channel that showcases your expertise such as Grammar Girl.

Offer tips to authors and interview authors, editors, and agents on your blogs or videos. Another option is to launch a radio show through any of the online radio channels where you interview authors and other people in the book publishing industry.

So I’ll leave you with: Detach from the outcome and keep going down your agent list until you make a connection. And two, remember that there are plenty of agents and if you follow your gut (intuition or synchronicity), you will land a deal with the right agent. And don’t forget to do your research on writing queries, pitches, polishing manuscripts, and on the agents.

I am an author and astrologer-coach. Sign up for a coaching session at Whole Astrology. Feel free to leave comments here. Thank you for following Belle Author.

 

 

Write It–Setting for Your Story

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photo by Patricia Herlevi

For some reason I woke up this morning with this idea in my head for finding settings for short fiction and novels. The idea was to ask questions with the Google search engine, such as “Which US state has the most vegetarians?” “Which US state has the most Hispanics, African-Americans, etc…”

And so on, by asking these types of questions you can find a setting that will bring your characters the most conflict. And you also solve the problem of conflict for your story. Many new writers especially, (I did this once myself), write stories without any real conflict.

So say you have a character that is phobic of a certain ethnic group or you have a character that despises vegetarians or progressives. Then you find the location that has the most progressives or people of the ethnic group in which your character has a phobia, and you plop your character into that locale. One built-in conflict is to send a pagan character, who dresses in Gothic clothing, reads esoteric books, into a small southern town steeped in fundamentalist Christianity. Or you can find place a teenage character obsessed with sex into a Catholic setting. Voila conflict.

You can stick a vegan in a town that thrives on ranching, and if this character advocates for animal welfare, he or she is going to run into deep trouble. Basically, you find a monster of one kind or another to pit against your character. I’m not talking physical monster, but an industry, belief system, or tight community that stares wearily at strangers. The theme of outsider is a strong universal theme that if done right transforms into a page-turning book.

The other concept I want to mention is more on the psychological/new age area and that is working with shadows and projections. As you know, if you have been following this blog, I personally have worked with Debbie Ford’s books on shadows and projections and have seen the movie “The Shadow Effect” three times.

We all have shadow selves stuffed inside us, even hidden from us, but not others who feel the frequency of these shadows. Do you ever meet someone who seems nice on the outside, but turns you off? You don’t know why exactly, but you can’t stand being around this person or you secretly want to lash out in cruelty. You pick up on this person’s frequency which is based on a belief that this person might have no awareness.

And at the same time, you might have the same belief about yourself so you project that disowned part of yourself on this person. Well, characters have shadows too. These are the places where the character fools themselves, act like they have it all together, and lie to themselves and ultimately, to others.

For instance, my character Agnes (Agnes and Yves), despises her mother for taking her to Paris during her childhood and then engaging in love affairs with married Parisian men. Agnes swears to herself that she will never repeat her mother’s behavior, then chases after a flamenco Don Juan, who just thinks of Agnes as a lady in another port. Later, she meets Yves, another foreign man. There is no way Agnes won’t fall for him at some point, because she still lives under her shadow.

I salt the novel with scenes in which Agnes interviews Parisian painters who are into seducing women. Agnes feels disgusted by their behavior, but this doesn’t stop her from throwing herself and her dignity at Pablo, the flamenco guitarist on tour with his troupe. And all of this makes for great comedy. Oh, Agnes, you fool for love.

Next time you need a setting for your novel, try asking questions to a search engine and see what stats and information comes up. For conflicts, turn to psychology and new age self-help books. This does not imply that you are creating new age characters, but that you are finding new avenues to unearthing their souls. If you follow this advice, you will create 3-dimensional if not, 5-dimensional characters that speak to the hearts of your readers. And don’t be afraid to sit your characters down and analyze their minds.

Thank you for enjoying my Write It post a second time. I originally wrote this post for Bonjour Bellingham (Word Press) when I was promoting my self-published novel, Agnes and Yves. The post concept still holds true today.

Write it–Befriending Editors

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I admit it, the first editor I worked with was a jerk and this turned me off to editors for many years. I developed the belief that editors were control freaks or word nerds who only cared about the bottom line and not a writer’s creative spirit or feelings. But then later in my career, I developed a respect for editors. Obviously, they’re part of the human experience, meaning we’ll find good and bad seeds among them.

And it’s true, in my early years as a writer it seemed that anyone could call themself an editor despite their educational background or writing experience. I encountered fussy and manipulative editors as well as ones that helped me shine as a writer. I worked with editors who judiciously rewrote copy and then slapped my name on it (I quit a contract job because this drove me crazy), and I met editors who helped me polish my writing skills by gently or not so gently referring me to the AP Writer’s Guide during my foray as a journalist.

While some editors came off as control freaks, others knew how to work with emerging and veteran authors in ways that did not wound egos. I also worked with one team of editors who caused me anguish over the impersonal way they edited a book that I took six months to write. I ended up re-editing the manuscript line-by-line which took me a month to complete. And this almost turned me off from all editors, except that I recalled one editor then living in New York who took the time to edit my screenplays which could have also been labeled literary train wrecks. This particular editor gave me confidence to write in longer form and I gleaned wisdom from his red pen.

So what are tips for working with editors?

  • Hone and polish your writing skills by working with grammar and writers guidebooks
  • Write several drafts before submitting work to an editor
  • Know ahead of time what you are willing to compromise or negotiate
  • Listen to what the editor says before making a rebuttal
  • If you’re freelance get editor referrals (don’t just work with any editor)
  • Follow directions when submitting to magazines and papers
  • Continue to improve your writing skills
  • Be firm and polite with your expectations
  • Know that editors are extremely busy people, multitasking for most of their work day
  • Editors make mistakes (be gracious instead of smug)
  • If your personality clashes with a particular editor, don’t work for him or her
  • Not all editors are equal (some could do better in another profession)
  • Remember that editors are people too and they have feelings/egos
  • If you’re hiring an editor, look up his or her credentials & talk to referrals
  • Remember to acknowledge and thank editors

Not all editors are professional writers, but many are so they have a deeper understanding of the writing craft and a writer’s aspiration. Not all editors are created equal so when you find one who helps you look spectacular stick with him or her. Also know that those books you pick up at a library or a store most likely went through a long editing process with editors offering suggestions to the authors. This means that writing a book involves a collaborative effort between the writer and the editor.

And the right editor can determine the fate of a best-seller or a book that fails to break even. In the end, no matter the subject matter, readers will either criticize or praise the book based on the quality of the writing. Often though the author gets most of the credit, it’s like that saying that there’s a good woman behind every successful man, but we substitute there’s a good editor behind every successful author.

I am an intuitive coach for creatives, an astrologer and author. Sign up for an intuitive coaching session so we can take your project to the next level. wholemusicexp at gmail