To an editor, go

“It is better to be good
than to be original.”
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Is it the willingness to improve craft that makes you a professional writer?

By Todd Glasscock

Some years ago, when I first began blogging, I entered into a fierce debate over the quality and value of NanoWriMo, and the debate went something like this: We’re professionals and this contest degrades the profession of writing! No! It encourages people to write and read and love fiction! You’re wrong! No! You are! Pffft!

The argument I threw into that Pandora’s Box was—if I’m recalling correctly—about the nature of what it meant to be a professional writer (I’m pretty sure it has little to do with being paid to write) rather than a beginner or amateur. For the most part, I concluded, its dedication to the craft, the desire to be good, that divides the professionals from the amateurs/beginners.

The professional will work daily to evolve his craft. The professional will write the ending of A Farewell to Arms 29 times to get it right, and then hope his editor Max Perkins or F. Scott Fitzgerald (so I’ve heard) can sort the goddamn thing out. The professional will struggle to write a third sentence to balance a parallel construction, or so he hopes.

The professional will take her NanoWriMo manuscript or any manuscript she’s written, and read it as the first draft it is. She will polish it. She will revise it 29 times, if that’s what it requires.

And she will not zip it to a publisher or even self-publish until she’s let someone read it, preferably a professional editor, or at the very least another writer she trusts, someone who will push her limits. She will have to set aside her ego—this is the writer’s best and worst friend—and make a thousand more decisions before it becomes the novel or story or article it should be.

I have been thinking of the nature of a professional writer, the writer who wants to be good and not merely published to feed her ego, after reading this blog post yesterday in the Huffington Post. Its last two paragraphs really struck me as being the most important in the post.

You have to set your ego aside as a writer. You have to have fresh, well-trained eyes to see the missing parts, to catch the subtle connections or missed connections in your prose. You have to be willing to care about your craft and willing to push yourself. That’s what makes you a professional.

So I leave you with those last two paragraphs to ponder:

Finally, let’s talk about editing. This extremely important step is often overlooked by authors. Why? Because it’s easy to find someone to edit a book, right? Wrong. Editing is a pretty specialized skill set; someone who can find ‘typos’ isn’t a good editor. You want someone to help you raise the bar on your work and create a final product that is something you can really be proud of. An editor will give you critical feedback (especially if you’ve hired a content editor, which I highly recommend), and often improve your work beyond what you might have been able to do on your own.

It’s good to remember that publishing isn’t just about finding the right place to print and publish your book. It’s about a lot more than that. Publishing is a business, if you treat it as a business model you will always succeed.


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