Wow, it’s been a year since my last post. Yes, I’ll admit it, I’ve been in a funk. Since the editor I had been using passed away I’ve actually lost some interest in writing. It might not make a great deal of sense to you, but please allow me to explain.
Imagine a baseball player with some natural talent. He can move with supreme agility, catch, throw and hit. In the local ball clubs he’s the best. Everyone praises him on his skill. This player has ambitions to make it to the big league. He wants to play for the Yankees, or the Red Sox, or the Cardinals. It really doesn’t matter to him what team he plays for as long as he’s in the major leagues.
Sound familiar? The above analogy can be used for almost any professional endeavor. Perhaps a doctor wants to work at the Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins. Perhaps a physicist wants to work for CERN or Brookhaven. Writers may want to write for a specific publishing house like Random House or Tor. Most writers I know though don’t have a specific house in mind, all they want is to be published, and that brings me to today’s post.
Like the baseball player, most writers have received encouragement. It might have been from family, friends, teachers or critique circles. The writer might even have published articles in a local newspaper and received acclaim for them. However, like the baseball player the writer also harbors a gnawing doubt and sometimes crippling uncertainty that they are good enough. If they possess those fears, and many of us do, they’re probably correct. Who knows you better than you? To those writers experiencing these destructive fears the question becomes; what are you going to do about them?
I know for a fact, by myself, I do not have the talent to write a bestseller. Please read that carefully. I did not say I do not have the talent to write a best seller. I honestly believe I could. However, I am also just as certain I cannot do it on my own. I’m not that good. I need help. I need another pair of eyes to critically look at my work and point out where I’ve screwed up. The baseball player in the analogy above might have abundant raw skills but raw skill will never make it in the majors. They operate at a whole new level. While you might be lightning fast in your movements, unless you can anticipate where to be at the right time, you’ll never make it to a sharply hit ball in time. It’ll sail right by making you look like you’re flat footed.
Writing is much the same. You might have a great idea for a story. You might have great believable characters, a wonderful hero and an absolutely hateful antagonist. If you simply put your story out there though, most likely, like the raw talent ball player, you’ll be looked at as a hack. Perhaps your sentence structure is awkwark. Maybe you use the same word too many times or placed too close together. Is your punctuation correct? Spelling? proper use of words? Like the ball player caught flat-footed a writer can look very similar without help.
The baseball player can get help. A good coach is invaluable. Instead of playing his normal position oat shortstop with runners on first and second he’s been told to play slightly deeper and towards third base with a right handed batter. He’s positioned for a sharply hit ball. Instead of it burning past him he’s in position to catch it or knock it down, throw to third or back to second for a potential double play.
A good editor is as valuable to a writer as a good coach is to a baseball player. A good editor can look for things like inconsistent timing, shallow characters, overuse of words, plot holes, and so much more. Just like to coach telling the shortstop how best to play the position under specific circumstances a good editor can make similar suggestions to a writer.
I know this for a fact. This is the reason I’ve been reluctant to write when my previous editor passed away. Oh, I’ve been looking for the past year. I’ve tried several but there are so many charlatans out there. I’ve spent time and money on several and all were far less than satisfactory. I never gave up but finding an editor that works for you takes both time and money. It’s taken me a year. I believe I have finally found an editor I can work with and, like a good coach, she has the knowledge to help position me where I belong on the field. We’ll see.
In the past month I’ve developed a renewed confidence in my ability. Yes, I can write but, like most writers, I also need help. I believe I have that now. I’ve sent several stories to my new editor, stories that I have gone over numerous times. I was mortally embarrassed when I received the editing on those stories. I won’t go into detail but my belief that I shouldn’t try to publish on my own was thoroughly validated. *laughs*
I’m back to writing. At least four hours a day with ass firmly planted in a chair. Whether I’m writing new, making corrections or outlining, I’m writing again. It feels good.
If you’re a writer get a ‘coach.’ A good coach. Spend the time and the money to find one that works for you. No matter how good you are, or think you are, a good editor will make you better. That’s what this game is all about; being the best you can be.