I thought of writing a bit of pep talk so I hope you enjoy reading. And I hope you learn something.
I started in the writing business as a public relations practitioner. I wrote feature articles, profiles, announcements, news items, and other press release materials for the consumption of various media outfits. Part and parcel of being a [newbie] writer is having my work scrutinized and edited by my superiors to make sure the articles are error-free.
Of course, regardless of the fact that I knew I could write decent paragraphs to make a decent article, I had doubts I could write as well as I am required to. And I was right. My compositions would come back to me littered with red marks, pointing out mistakes here and there. I would revise my work according to the edit notes. Until eventually, having gotten the hang of writing articles, keeping in mind the notes my editors leave on my drafts, I improved my style, the tone and language, and the drafts came back to me with less and less corrections until there was no more red ink.
My fiction writing experience was pretty much the same. In terms of technicalities (copy and line edits), there was very little to correct. I used everything I learned from my former bosses and applied them to this new career of writing prose. My bigger problem lay with the content and development of my stories. Some of which must have truly sucked as they got rejected one after another. At some point, I felt like throwing in the towel because I had started to believe I did not have the talent as a storyteller.
But I persevered. Like my newbie years as a public relations assistant, I learned from my mistakes and applied them, I lived and breathed fiction books and research materials to make my stories more believable and my language more fluid. Eventually, I was able to submit manuscripts (Tagalog romance) without worrying about rejection.
Yes! [insert happy dance here]
Did I stop needing editors then? Definitely not. We authors are always so in love with our stories that we are bound to miss an important detail, forget to tie loose ends, or at the very least, pepper the manuscript with typographical errors not because we are careless, but more because we know our stories by heart. In our heads, the details are all there. In reality, we’ve altogether missed putting them down on paper. All the more reason to have our work checked by an editor.
Now I’m also an editor, a ruthless one. I’d have no qualms murdering your manuscript if it needed to be torched. I’d written in another blog entry how I believe an editor should be, and I stand by everything I said in the blog. And I am just as ruthless when I self-edit.
Does the fact that I am also an editor absolve me from needing to have my stories edited by other editors? Heck, no. Still, no. I self-edit only so that when it gets to my editor, she won’t kill me for making her life miserable.
So what am I saying?
Dear author, let’s do our job as authors. 1) Learn the basics. Grammar is a basic skill. I don’t understand aspiring authors who have not mastered this and still believe they can be an effective writer. 2) Read books. Live and breathe books. Especially stories in the genre we want to write. Yes, we have the freedom to write what we want but we also need to learn what works and what doesn’t. 3) And then we write. We have our work edited, learn from our editors, and write again. This is the creative process we must all embrace. If we truly want to create beautiful stories.
I know I do. I hope you do too.
Your fellow author (who can sometimes be your editor)