My Editor, My Ally

I have an ally.

When writing, it’s vital to have allies. People who will fight for your story at your side. They might cheer you on. They might be your beta readers, offering truly constructive criticism because they want to see you succeed. They might be family members that clear out to give you the time to write. If you have any of those on your writing journey, be thankful.

But one of the best allies you can have is an editor. Someone who will take the words you’ve crafted and makes them better.

There a number of different kinds of editors.

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Boundaries for Writers and Their Families

“Do you need to leave the room to get writing done?” my wife asks, concerned. We’re currently sitting in a hotel room. Three of the kids are on their laptops at school meets. The baby is staring at my wife’s phone so she doesn’t disturb the others at school. I’m trying to get a little work done while everyone else is busy. My wife is concerned that I might be distracted.

Nah. I should be good. Everyone else is distracted right now, and I’m just going to quick type out a blog post. It requires concentration, but not the same level as creating worlds out of words.

So I open up the word processor to get to work. And then she sits down and starts talking at me.

None of it is bad, and all of it is stuff that we should really iron out before we have to leave the hotel for the day. But it’s also stuff that can wait a few minutes, and she was all good with me writing.

She just now leaned over and asked me to feel the cup her coffee is in. It’s made of recyclable paper.

And now I’m back to typing.

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Because I Needed More to Do

Clearly something is wrong with me.

Well, honestly, there’s a lot of things wrong with me. Right now I’m thinking of one thing in particular, though:

I’m thinking of starting a YouTube channel.

Why would I do such a thing?! I’ve got enough going on as it is. I don’t need to add more to it!

Also, I know that having a YouTube channel is no guarantee of views! I run the YouTube channel for my congregation, and that doesn’t get a lot of views!

Really, it came down to me thinking about a side of being an author I don’t like: Marketing.

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The Cull

I can’t do it.

We have too many books in our household. OK, yes, I know that’s technically impossible. It’s not “too many books,” it’s “not enough shelves.” Except we have two rooms dedicated to nothing but shelves of books, along with several other shelves in each bedroom, the basement, and the living room. We’ve run out of room on the shelves. We have boxes of books we’ve bought in the last two years that have never been on the shelves. It’s time to go through and cull.

I adore books as artifacts. Even if I never read the books on the shelves, there’s something soothing about seeing all these worlds lined up, ready to invite you in. Holding a book calms me. As a child, I’d literally carry a stack of three or four books around with me in my house so I always had options to read, whether I was in the living room, dining room, any of those places that would be necessary to have a pile of books. So, yes, books have been a thing for me for a long time.

It’s worse now.

See, I know from experience how much work goes into a book. I know how much time, how much effort, how much blood goes into the ink that marks the pages – not just from the author, but from a cover artist, an editor, a publisher… How could I take a book from my shelf and just get rid of it? How could I belittle the effort that went into the artifact that is a book?

Then again, most authors would never know. I purchased their book, so they’ve been paid for their efforts. So I’m not really offending them, am I? And if I donate the book, I can share the joy of that book with someone else who may enjoy it.

If I saw one of my books in a used book shop, I’d actually smile. Actually, I’d probably sign it and put it back, just so someone got an extra surprise.

So, it’s not that big a deal, is it?

Yeah. It is. I still don’t like choosing books to leave. How can I select someone’s child to become homeless?

So, what am I doing?

As we work our way through our shelves, I’m asking these questions:

  • If I’ve read it, am I ever going to read it again?
  • If I haven’t read it, will I ever actually read it?
  • Is it a book I want on hand to lend to friends?
  • Is it a book I want on hand so my kids can read it?

If the answer to all those is “no,” it goes in a stack for my wife to evaluate. She also goes through the shelves, pulling any books that she has no interest in ever returning to. If we end up agreeing, the book is removed from the shelves to our donation or resell pile.

There’s a process, but man, it still hurts!

Have you ever had to cull your shelves? How did you go about it?

Impatience is Not a Virtue

I may have a problem.

For Christmas, my parents gave me an insanely generous gift: a $100 gift card for my comic shop.

Guess what I’m planning to do later today?

Last night I was going through what I want to get. The shop is running a sale for the next week, and I’m eager to take advantage of it. I could complete my Mike Grell Green Arrow run. I could pick up some Thor. Maybe I should get some more Batman or Wonder Woman? Oh, I could grab some Star Wars!

OK, I definitely have a problem. Decision paralysis is setting in, and I’m not even there yet!

But that’s not the problem I’m writing about today. See, I got this gift card, and though I have a week to spend it before the sale ends at my shop, I want to go today to spend it.

Patience is not my strong suit.

This problem extends to my writing.

Last week I wrote out a rough draft of a story involving a man who kills gods for a living. I thought it was nifty. I did one quick revision and sent it out to some beta readers to make sure it made sense. It did. I revised it again.

And then I was too impatient. I submitted it to a publisher.

It probably needed another revision or two. Every time I go through, I tend to find more ways to tighten up the story, reveal characters in more potent ways, or just a few more typos. But I didn’t want to do that work. I wanted to submit it right away because I was excited about that story!

There are times in the writing life a person needs to hurry. Notice, please, I am not saying that there’s ever an excuse to be sloppy or lazy. But yes, sometimes a person needs to rush. Perhaps a call for submissions closes soon. Perhaps you have only fifteen minutes a day, and you need to use those minutes to their fullest. These things happen!

At the same time, writing often calls for patience. Allowing a story to develop takes some time. Polishing that story takes effort. Finding the right market isn’t usually something that happens in five minutes. And all of that takes patience.

Thankfully, in the initial writing stages I usually have patience in abundance. I usually take time to find the right market. Initial polishing? No problem. But that finer polishing to make it all shiny? It’s something I have to force myself to do. Often enough it does get done.

Sigh. Writing is work, and that means it’s not always fun. My patience wears thin.

It’s something to work on in 2021, I guess.