This is an instance where I have to proclaim myself being an idiot. No two ways around it. And that is why I am writing this so you don’t have to be an idiot too.
All authors have high-minded ideas of what they want to do with their art. I am no exception. I know what I want to write. I know how I’d like it to be perceived and I’d like for it to be successful to show that I know what I’m doing. We can’t get around the fact that we all want to hear that phrase: “Job well done!”
We’ve all heard that being a writer is a lonely profession as if the work is entirely executed by one person – the author. And trust me, nothing could be further from the truth. A writer’s perception is narrow so we outsource to readers and various other opinion givers to get a feel for how our work will be perceived. There are a lot of outside elements that basically help shape our work long before it is ever published.
The biggest of those “shapers” of our work is our editor. And finding one that can understand your voice, your concept and your goals is a difficult task. Many of us will go thru several before we find someone simpatico with our writing objectives. Now, the key to finding a really great editor is not looking for a yes person who will agree with you on absolutely everything. A great editor is not only an individual who can put your commas and semi-colons in the right place, clean up your grammar and cut your excesses. A great editor is a businessperson who can tell you upfront if you have a product that will sell or, if you don’t, how to reshape it so that it will. Sometimes that advice is truthful, but not easy to hear. Some authors don’t like this kind of constructive criticism and will take off for the hills saying the editor is “blah-blah-blah!” (substitute your own curse words.) But again, remember… it is the editor’s job to make your work sell-able. They’re not trying to chase you away or ruin their own reputation by being difficult. They are giving you an honest opinion as an outsider who has done this job as an art many times over. They’re not your drunk uncle telling you it’s a piece of crap after one too many Rob Roys. Criticism is hard to take but essential in making certain you create a product that will not only sell but generate respect for you as a writer. We all need to step back from our egos and listen to what our editors tell us. That’s hard to do. But in the long run it will pay off in sales… and in how readers view your craft. So, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, listen anyway.
I’m no different than any other author. I have an agenda on what I want to accomplish. I also know the type of material I want to attach my name to. There’s plenty of stuff I have no intention of writing for a lot of reasons. And trust me, I can dig my feet in hard when I don’t want to do something with the best of ya.
I’ve had a modicum of success with my work because I found the right editor in Tina Adamski at Ally Editorial Services. We developed a working relationship and friendship by talking constantly when we’re engaged in a project and Tina, I guarantee you, is 100% up front honest with you on your work. If you’re wordy, she’ll cut the words. If you’re overly descriptive, bye bye needless adjectives. If you word something poorly, which we all do on occasion, she’ll revamp it and make you look like a genius. That’s what an editor does. They clean up the mess you make, instead making you look like the author of a masterpiece. And they don’t get a lot of credit other than their name on the copyright page, even though they have as much hand in your work as you do. You have to quit overestimating yourself and underestimating them.
So why am I writing this, bearing my soul as a self-proclaimed idiot? Several months ago, Tina came to me along with others, encouraging me to take on a project that was something I simply did not want to do. I dug those heels in. I said no. Repeatedly. She was listening to the voices of others who follow me and read me and suggested that I could divert from my campaign of writing “high-minded literary” endeavors and lighten up. The people who follow me wanted to hear more about, of all things, me and my relationship with an ornery little nineteen-year-old muse. I told amusing little anecdotes daily about what he and I did… only because I didn’t have a cat or dog, or even a relationship to talk about. So he was the next best thing. The thing that made me smile or laugh or drop my jaw every day. But write about this? Certainly not. This is not what I wanted to be known for – weightless episodic comedy. In spite of others saying it would be fun, I still shook my head. Nope. Not for me. Enjoy the anecdotes.
But Tina, more as an editor than a friend, persisted. “This is what people want to read. It brings joy to them. It makes them smile. It’s entertainment. What do you think writing is all about in the first place?” she asked.
This conversation happened several times and each time she presented it to me for what it really was, story-telling on a personal level. Something that all writers strive to do. But this one had guideposts from living it all over it. She laid out how it could be done… just like it eventually happened. An episode for everything that we actually did, whether it be funny or stupid or revealing. Like a Will and Grace only with generational differences that everyone could relate to. And each time, Tina made it sound more and more like what I’d been trying to do all along. Tell a story that people enjoyed and would tell others about so that my work was actually being read.
I broke down and did it. And it wasn’t easy, because I was traversing unknown territory. I’d written romance and fairy tales and science fiction, but I’d never done reality writing. And she handheld me through the entire process. Hell, she constructed the format. All I had to do was write the odd little vignettes of my experiences with my young friend and she tied them all together and packaged them as what they really were: glimpses into my life, odd as they were.
All the way up to the point of publishing the first one, I was filled with trepidation because she made me walk a different path in my writing. She told me, “You’re gonna be surprised by this, I guarantee you.” I wanted to believe her… but like the idiot I told you I was earlier, I was skeptical.
And then the first one was released. Nothing I could do about it after that. Just sigh and hope people didn’t take to it too badly.
Six hours later, it was number two on the bestseller list. She called me to tell me. My muse called to tell me. His mother called to tell me. His grandmother called to tell me. And six hours later, it was number one. I’d never had a number one and I’d written seven books. I sat there and was stupefied. Not just because I’d attained something I thought impossible… but because I’d been entirely wrong about it all along. Only my editor pushed me forward to do it…
So yes. Here’s an idiot giving you advice you need to listen to. Listen to your f*cking editor. You might think you’re great, but a good editor will get you to #1… and that’s the truth.
Ally Editorial Services: http://www.allyeditorialservices.com/