You know all about editors and the editing process, right?
Or, maybe not 🙂 Sometimes sorting out what different editors do can be quite confusing. If so, check out this quick guide to get a fuller understanding.
But lots of writing coaches are out there these days, and many writers ask me what that actually means.
Does this sound familiar?
I’ve seen articles as well that say this is a kinder, gentler way to go about learning to write and revise. That a writer—even a new one—inherently knows how to craft the story, and that a coach will pull that out.
This appeals to writers’ main fears of the editing process. Almost everyone comes to me with having some trepidation to outright terror at the process. All of which is completely normal.
As I often say when speaking at literary conferences: We’re not selling bread dough here, but parts of your very heart and soul.
We’ve all been there. Yep, terrifying indeed.
So going straight to a coach may appear to take away the fear. It seems easier on the heart, no? A dipping your toe in, so to speak. And yes, an artist’s psyche is usually somewhat fragile, at least in the deep places, where creativity originates.
But here’s an industry secret: You truly do have to grow a thick skin.
Otherwise, the rejections from agents and publishing-house editors, or from readers if you self-publish, and from reviewers of all kinds of publications, will cut you off at the knees.
You’re simply going to get rejected. Bludgeoned by some, in many cases.
You know the score.
And wouldn’t it be far better for that first deep cut to come from a one-on-one relationship, with a great editor you trust?
Wouldn’t you rather face what you don’t know, and learn how to fix it, before your book is out for the public to read (and often, cut up into bits and pieces)?
I also often have writers come to me wanting coaching—before they’ve written the book. They’ve heard about this in writing groups (again, the easier, gentler way).
But one thing I can tell you for true—if you don’t write first, all the coaching is beside the point.
The bigger problem? It actually hampers your creativity, setting you back far enough that it takes a while to dig out of that dark hole.
I see this a lot. I’ve had many writers come to me after using a coach to begin. What has happened every time is that their voices are stilted. Grammatically correct, perhaps, but dry rather than fertile and rich.
You enhance your creativity, find your voice, by writing, writing, writing.
Nothing improves your skills like actually practicing your craft.
On the opposite extreme, many folks use editors for one pass and that’s it. That’s what most editors do—they edit the manuscript, send it back, and say good luck.
Does the book get edited? Yes.
But if that’s the end-all of the process, it’s like putting one shoe on your horse, and hoping he can trot well enough to not need the other three.
In essence, it leaves you limping along.
While a deep developmental edit is truly the first step, and hopefully that came with a long critique, correlated specifically to the pages so that you’ll understand what the editor has done on the manuscript, that’s exactly what that is—the first step. The first shoe on that proverbial horse.
Once you get all of that back is when you need the next step—coaching/mentoring. Then you need that editor to bounce off of. That’s when you need someone to make sense of where you are and where you’re going, and yes, to pull from you the deeper roots of the story and people.
Only then does coaching matter. And, then it’s truly vital.
Writing well just isn’t learned in a vacuum.
My writers and I go back and forth all the time through revisions. Lots of questions arise as they’re diving in. Lots of hashing out of what can be done. So much discussion of how to get what’s so clear in the head onto the page.
One of my favorite things that always happens is once we’ve looked at what’s not working, and I’ve explained the hows and whys and wherefores, then suggested ways to improve it with many examples, the writer comes back and says, “Or, I could do it this way!”
There’s always excitement in the voice, the unearthing of creativity that yes, was there all along. But it took a process to excavate the deeper aspects.
And, that third way is always the very best way as well.
Then writers send me passages, scenes, chapters, to make sure they’re on track. That results in so many benefits. We find where they’ve grown as writers. We see if something is still a sticking point. We dig deeper into the characters while streamlining the plot.
But every bit as important, the confidence of the writer grows. Knowing you’re on track, knowing you’ve absorbed, learned, are becoming better with every scene, well, that’s priceless.
Confidence in creative endeavors is paramount. Writers already have enough doubts!
A great editor’s job is not to fashion someone else’s book in his own image. That’s the worst thing an editor can do. And yes, while the writer’s ideas are in there somewhere, by going through an initial edit, then a coaching/mentoring relationship, is what brings out the best of both the writer’s and the editor’s ability.
A win-win, all around.
I’m always here for my writers, for however long, as any good coach should be. But it’s those I work with who avail themselves most of the coaching part of the process, who go on to become successfully published authors.
And isn’t that the goal for us all?