Dreading The Editing Process? Don’t. It’ll Make You a Better Writer

I am a sensitive person.

Many writers are sensitive people. Whether they cover up their sensitivity with humor, a tough, tacit exterior, gruffness, mystique, intrigue, or paper towels — inside, you’ll find a sensitive heart. Of course, that just applies to most writers, not all of them. Sweeping generalizations can get a person in trouble (sometimes).

But one of the things that I’m not sensitive about is my editing process, whether it’s on my own or with an editor. (I actually love being edited.)

Why?

Because it makes me a better writer.

There are several objections that people have to being edited — having their words changed on them or critiqued. NOTE that I use the word ‘critiqued’ and not ‘criticized.’ There is a world of difference between those two. Critique comes from the sincere desire to help someone improve their work. Criticism comes from the desire to belittle another person’s work. So, for the purpose of this post, let’s focus on critique and the editing process.

The two main objections I have seen from people over editing are:

  • It won’t be ‘my’ work anymore. If some editor comes in and changes whole paragraphs, adding and deleting sentences, then it’s not ‘mine’ any longer.
  • My work must not be very good if it needs this much revision. I’m just an untalented hack!
Well, let’s tackle that first one. 

  • It won’t be ‘my’ work anymore. If some editor comes in and changes whole paragraphs, adding and deleting sentences, then it’s not ‘mine’ any longer.
BULL CRAP. When I was doing my creative writing course in undergrad at the University of Vermont, my professor, Margaret Edwards, addressed this directly, and I’ll paraphrase her here:
It is absolutely still your own work. Had you not penned those words to paper, they wouldn’t exist for me to edit and revise. All I am doing is massaging the text to make it smooth and to make it stand out. These words are yours, not mine.

Let me put it this way. You give me a vase to examine. I put a flower in it and hand it back to you. It’s still your vase, kiddo. Now it’s just got a nice, bright flower in it to make people notice it even more than before.
The work is yours. It wouldn’t exist if you hadn’t written it in the first place. All editing is, essentially, is window dressing to make people stop in and ooh and ah at what a talented writer you are.
Okay? Okay. Next!
  • My work must not be very good if it needs this much revision. I’m just an untalented hack!

HA HA HA! Okay, seriously, stop feeling sorry for yourself RIGHT NOW. This is what we call a ‘cognitive distortion.’ Emotional reasoning, all-or-nothing thinking, and labeling, specifically. Stop it.
The fact of the matter is, even the very best writers on earth who have lived and are alive now have needed serious revisions to their work. Sometimes they have to cut out entire chapters, and sometimes they have to add descriptions. They have to change phrasing, rewrite entire blocks of prose, and take a machete to their work. But they’re still fantastic writers. They’re top-notch. They’ll even revise three or four times before submitting it for editing, and then the editors will do a number on the manuscript.
So stop thinking you don’t have talent. If an editor is looking at your work and caring enough about it to make major changes, then you, my friend, are a good writer. You’ve got the craft and the art of writing. Shut up and revise that manuscript, and be glad that you’ve got what it takes to get the attention of an editor who sees tons of manuscripts every week.
Editing, essentially, is simply a process you need to make your work stand out and get the attention it deserves. Instead of looking at it negatively, look at it as an opportunity to grow as a writer. It’s good for you, and, of course, the best flowers do grow after a combination of water and crap (yes, fertilizer. I sort of made a poop joke there. Enjoy.).
Now, get writing!
This post is dedicated to the incredible editor extraordinaire at Random House, Mister Benjamin Dreyer. You can follow his funny, sarcastic, witty, and insightful tweets @BCDreyer. While you’re there, follow me, too, @Spellvira — I am almost hilarious at times.
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