Monday, January 9, 2012

I Want to be a Writer.

Recently I finished another short story, and I put it up on the writing forum ( to be critiqued. As with most of my stuff, some people liked it and some people didn’t; no big deal.

But then, the owner of the forum and very, very good writer and editor Michelle L. Devon offered a full-on edit of the thing, which I happily agreed to. I was honored that she’d take the time out of her busy day to throw down an edit on my amateur piece. Thrilled, in fact.

Now, I won’t put anything up to be read by others unless I have done a few edits on it myself, so this thing wasn’t a first-draft hack. It was ready to go, or so I thought. I had not re-written it yet, which is something I have recently enjoyed doing to my short stories, but it was as edited as I could get it in its current form.

I can’t edit.

I began to go through the stuff she had fixed and/or suggested, and it was really good. The things she was changing were amateur mistakes that I thought were pretty much behind me at this point. Some of the fixes and suggestions I had actually considered at some point, but many weren’t. Most of her edits were fixing my weak writing.

Each and every sentence she fixed was much stronger after the fix. Each idea she suggested would, in fact, make the story stronger. I can’t believe that I missed all those errors. Time to break bad habits.

One of my favorite authors is Clive Barker. I love the way he flows, and I love the words he uses (language, folks, it’s all about the language). When I read his stuff, I can’t help but marvel at his strength with words. He truly is a genius. It’s no wonder he’s a best-selling author whose stories have gone on to be movies; the man knows what the hell he’s doing.

Then there’s my junk.

Don’t worry, I’m not putting myself down. I don’t do that. But CRIMENY, it would be nice to have a story flow like his. Just one, that’s all I ask. The fact that I write so weakly is what keeps me from tackling a novel, really. If I cannot manage 3,500 words without a shit load of glaring errors, what the heck would become of 100,000? No, I’ll continue writing short stories until I can somehow rid myself of the amateur mistakes I seem so prone to making.

I’m convinced that it has a lot to do with the story being mine. I wrote it, and so I’m bound not to catch small errors I would probably catch if I were reading someone else’s tale. That’s why, folks, it’s *so* important to have an impartial third-party who knows what they are doing read your stuff before anyone else sees it. An artist should never have the final say in his own creations.

Anyhow, rant over. I am just finding it hard to believe that, after three years of writing full-time, I’m still using “as” when I should be using “while” or that I still use a lot of “ands” where there should plainly be two separate sentences.

Example: I stopped a lot as I walked to school that day, and each time I did, I thought about going back home.

I stopped a lot while I walked to school that day. Each time I did, I thought about going back home.

The second instance is clearly stronger. Hey, at least I know what some of my weaknesses are now. That’s why budding musicians or chess players are highly encouraged to receive lessons from a professional coach. No matter how talented the student may be, they simply can’t recognize all the slight errors they make which are holding them back from being great. A pro only has to glance at them doing their thing to see what is wrong, and that information is priceless. It really is.

From now on, all my tales go to Michelle for editing before I submit them to publishers. I don’t mind paying her for a professional edit half as much as I mind sending out sub-par work that will never get printed. That just wastes everyone’s time.

I’m a writer, damnit, and I want to be published. I know what to do, and I’m determined to do it. Here’s to eradicating mistakes we constantly make, and to new horizons.



Michelle Devon (MIchy) said...

Do you honestly think that Clive woke up one morning and was instantly the perfect writer? Do you think that, even now, he writes a rough draft perfectly without an editor taking a red pen to it?

Don't judge your ability as a writer by your drafts. A good writer gets edited. I am an editor and even *I* get someone else to edit MY work after I've torn it apart myself.

I don't think you're making rookie mistakes at this point. Telling a story is more important than the 'writing' technical part of it. There are some people who can write perfectly but don't know how to weave a story. You weave the story. The rest is just practice and editing.

I love your attitude about the craft though, truly. You are one of the few people I've met who take criticism so well and turns it into something so positive!

Keep doing what you're doing... and remember what I said before, writing is not a destination - it's a journey!

Love and stuff,

J. Kendrick Allen said...

I'm in a similar boat as you, and here are my thoughts. Early drafts, even ones with some of our own editing, are not going to be grammatically and stylistically perfect. A first draft is about story and getting it on paper. Our future drafts are about painstakingly and repeatedly trying to fix things that you discussed in this article.

After you've gone over it several times, then you can watch an editor still walk in and tear it apart with seeming ease. I doubt there is a good or successful author in the market who has not received the red pen of death treatment from an equally good and successful editor.

For your situation, I would look at it like this: There was obviously something worthwhile in your work for this person to choose to edit it. If it was trash they would not waste their time. Learn as many lessons as you can from it. Use it as a guideline for your own future proofreading and self-editing. Finally, and most importantly of all, don't allow it to discourage you even in the slightest.

Derek Odom said...

Michelle: Good point on Clive’s first drafts. I’m not disheartened, only a tad frustrated and disappointed. I want to be good, darnit. I want to write stuff people like to read. It’ll happen, because this train don’t stop. You have been and are an inspiration to all of us. Also, thanks for the encouraging words; sometimes, they are so good to hear. :P

J. Kendrick Allen: Thanks for your thoughts. You are correct, I think. As long as we are improving, our chances go up for publication. Each and every time I learn something new I try to commit it to the brain-safe and lock it up tight. :)

J. Kendrick Allen said...

That's the only way we reach the pinnacle of our abilities! Plus, I'd look at something even more worthwhile: You've found an editor you like, respect, and trust early into your career to help you tighten up your works before they are submitted. If you're willing to pay for her services and trust her to improve your artistry, then you clearly have established a positive relationship that will significantly help your writing career. Many of your fellow young writers (like me) would pay gold to have the same thing!

Derek Odom said...

That's a damn good point. I truly am blessed. :)