Ramblings (pl. noun): talking or writing in a confused way, often for a long time
Bardlings (pl. noun): Ramblings from Bard

[tsat home] [#47] [editorials]
On a Necessary Non-Evil
by Michael W. Bard
©2006 Michael W. Bard -- all rights reserved

Over the years I've written a lot of things about how to improve your writing. Things to try, things to watch out for, things to pay attention to. I've even mentioned some pet peeves of my own as an editor. But, I've never addressed the question of why a writer needs an editor.

Sadly, many writers resist anybody editing the work. In fact, they actively hate and resent anybody who even tries, or who says their work is less then perfect. These writers are wrong; there is no reason to be afraid or resentful, and much to be gained.

First, any good editor will comment on your story, not on yourself. So, whatever they say, they are simply saying it about the story, not about you. So is it really that bad if somebody doesn't like some words you've typed on a page?

Of course, if they do start insulting you as a person, then just ignore them and don't ask them to edit again.

Second, we writers are always too close to our own work. In other words, we know in our minds what's going to happen, how the words should sound like magic -- and because of that, it's hard for us to recognize when the written word doesn't. Since we know that we used the correct version of "their, there, they're", we can easily miss the wrong version; since we know that the narrator is very skilled at swimming, we can forget to tell the reader that; et cetera. An editor will find these errors and point them out so that they can be corrected.

Third, we writers may miss the obvious. A neutral third party may see things that never occurred to us, or point out ideas or solutions that we never thought of. As a recent example, in a story of mine I had a character announce that he was assuming a permanent position of power -- in effect, appointing himself 'president for life'. I had no problem with this. Then a proofreader pointed out that the other characters would resent this. And thus new characters were born, the main character was changed and enhanced considerably, and the story ended up far better than it would otherwise have been.

Fourth, it is very hard to improve unless we can see what in our writing needs improvement. It's very hard for the writer to see things like that. Editors point them out, and the good ones suggest a better way to approach it. Consider this: In school, do they let you just work your way through things by trial and error, or do they tell you your mistake, and tell you how to resolve it? Which method of learning works better?

Note that as a writer, it is our right, privilege, and responsibility, to think about anything an editor says. If we think that the editor is wrong, then undo the change and tell them, and tell them why. Maybe they agree, maybe they don't, but, ultimately, it's the writer's story.

So, there you go. Don't be afraid. An editor, or even a proofreader, can be your best friend. And they are the most efficient way to improve. And, yes, we can all improve -- even me!

[tsat home] [#47] [editorials]