This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. The awesome co-hosts for the November 5 posting of the IWSG are LG Keltner, Donna Hole, Lisa Buie-Collard and SL Hennessy!
You know nothing
Jon Snow writer.
When I first got published, I thought I was pretty savvy when it came to writing. After all, I’d been doing it for a long time (check out my last IWSG post if you want to know just how long) and I’d learned a thing or two or twelve. I was a good writer, I mean, good enough publishers wanted to publish me, right? Like, they actually wanted to give me money to turn my stories into books for people to read. I must have finally achieved master status in my craft.
Sometimes–and if there’s any editors or agents out there reading this and I’m wrong, please correct me–I think a writer gets picked up based on their potential rather than their current level of skill. No writer (at least, newcomer writer) is going to sit down at the publishing table polished and perfect. They might be good, even great, but they aren’t perfect. I suspect it’s like those makeover shows: “Well if we cut her hair and put some makeup on her and dear God, get her into some decent clothes, she’ll probably be acceptable for the pageant.” That’s the editor’s job: slapping makeup on your ugly face.
I’ve worked with some very good editors. I’ve learned something from each one of them, things I didn’t know before, stunning things even, things I’ve clutched my head over and said, “Why in the world didn’t I know this before!?” I’m grateful to every editor I’ve ever worked with, every person who was getting paid to punch me into shape, even if that shape still turned out sort of blob-like.
However, when I met my editor for my upcoming urban fantasy series, I quickly realized I was about to go on a magical journey of learning and punching the likes of which I’d never been on before.
This woman knows her stuff. She knows stuff I never even knew was stuff. She’s kind but firm, supportive but ruthless, and oh my God, did she ever open my eyes to how much I didn’t know. This is why I have to believe publishers pick you up on potential, sometimes. What I didn’t know when I walked in the door seems hilarious to me now. It’s the kind of knowledge that makes me look back on old pieces of writing and cringe. She opened up a treasure box of knowledge.
And so, I give this advice to fellow writers, published, self-published, or still trying. These three things you must always remember, no matter what stage you’re at in your career:
- Listen to your assigned editor (or the editor you hire for your self-pubbed work). Take their advice and guidance. You know how to tell stories, but they know how to write.
- Even if you’ve been writing for fifty years, there is still something to learn. You can never leave school in this craft. The day you think you’ve learned it all, you’re going to get left behind.
- You don’t have to be perfect when you come in, you just have to be willing to learn.
I still have much to learn, even with all I’ve taken in this year. I’m grateful for the people whose job it is to dress me up and parade me across the stage. Heaven knows they have their hands full.