Editor Fear

A couple years ago my vet struck up a conversation with me while she was examining my cat. (Bean, for those of you who know my pets.) What do you do? she asked.

I always enjoy this question, for a variety of reasons. First, I love what I do and enjoy talking about it, but also because people are a little surprised. It’s not an answer they expect.

In this case, my vet said, “Oh! My husband’s been working on a novel! I should get your card.” And I said, “I’d be happy to talk to him sometime.” (I love my vet.) I gave her my card. We exchanged some email; I gave her a link to the page on my website that’s especially for writers.

I never heard from the husband, though his wife brings it up when she sees me. He’s going through it one more time, she says. And I tell her I understand.

Because I do. I call it Editor Fear.*

I don’t mean the folks who tease me on Facebook and say they’re afraid I’m editing their posts. (I understand that, too, but the fact is I don’t have time to critique Facebook posts or emails or conversations with friends, and I’ve said this many times in many public forums. And—seriously!—if you honestly think I’m mentally correcting you or anyone else, you don’t know me very well.)

No, this is what I mean: sometimes good, sincere, hardworking novelists-in-training are terrified of editors. They don’t want to let an editor see their work because they’re afraid it’s bad. Or they’re afraid the editor will think badly of them. Or of the work. They’re afraid, maybe, because they don’t know how the process works.

I understand. Don’t worry. I like working with writers who are just beginning to grasp what they can do with words and stories. If your manuscript isn’t ready for prime time, I—or another editor**—can help you identify where you need work. I can show you how to “fix” the sorts of issues that come up with beginning writers. I can coax a better manuscript from your keyboard. You have nothing to fear. I’m an encourager. I take my work seriously, and I really do understand your nervousness.

So consider this: folks who are truly called to write generally have many stories fighting to be written. If you fear the process that will allow you to move on to the next one, it’s possible you should consider another hobby.

* In addition to Editor Fear, there is its opposite, Editor Unbelief, in which the writer is so confident in his manuscript’s best-seller potential that he doesn’t think he needs an editor at all. There’s also Editor Disbelief, in which the writer thinks his manuscript is perfect as is and doesn’t believe a word his editor says. I have much less patience with these.

** This isn’t about my needing more work. Whether or not we work together, I’m good.


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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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