Thursday, April 06, 2006

No Writer is an Island

That big shout of satisfaction you heard coming from the west coast last night was me. Sorry about that. Hope I didn't wake you. See, I got the latest draft of Hung Out to Die off to Bantam last night. It wasn't a particularly difficult rewrite, just took a few weeks.

There are few things as satisfying as seeing the notes my editor sent me get ticked off one-by-one until there was none left. As before, the notes were good ones. Really good. The story is that much better now...(when I say "that much," imagine me holding my hands far apart.)

It's a whole new world for me working with an editor. I’m fascinated by their profession. It’s not one I think I could ever do, at least not full time. But how cool is it that day in and day out these people help writers craft better stories. Sounds like a dream. At first, anyway. People come to you with interesting and exciting stories, and you help them make the tales better.

Well, there is a dark side. I'm sure there are those...hmmm...difficult writer's out there. You know what I’m talking about. The authors who don’t want to make any changes. Who think editors every suggestion is not worth his or her time.

Personally, I take the path of: "Thank you for offering to publish my book. What would you like me to do now?"

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Quit yelling at me! I don't mean you just blindly do whatever your editor says. (Kindly extinguish the torches and let's save that hangman's knot for later...good craftsmanship on that, though.) But your editor is a story expert. Not to listen to them is stupid. You should talk to them. Ask them questions. Understand where they are coming from with their suggestions. 9.795 times out of 10, you’ll end up agreeing with them in the end.

Hung Out to Die is a good book. (I can say that now. None of you have read it yet.) Hell, it was a good book when Bantam bought it or they would have never given me the time of day based on my situation (read the early posts here about might have to scroll down a bit.) Because of the suggestions my editor(s) have made, the story is better.

So much better (again with the hands held wide apart.)

“Sure, Brett. That’s all fine. But what if you aren’t published? What if you don’t have an editor?”

Simple. Find one. I did. I had a teacher who became my sounding board. He’d look at my work, give me ideas, help to fix problems. He even went so far as to often do a line edit. (Boy was that painful at first, but it sure helped prepare me for later.) So if you're unpublished and don't have an editor, I say find one. Not necessarily a professional, but someone. There are plenty of people out there, smart people, story people, people who can help you. Maybe it's a teacher, or a fellow writer. As long as it is someone you trust and whose opinions you respect, then you’re fine. Use them. Let them help you. Listen to them, and don't take criticism personally.

While writing might be an "individual" art, no book is ever written alone.

At least none that will ever be published.

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