When trying to come up with something to talk about for this blog post, I went through the many stages of my own procrastination. Asking myself, “What can I talk about?!”. Talking to myself, “Oh, God, I don’t want to do this. Why did I have to be in the first group?” Overall I just had no hope in thinking I would have anything to talk about. I like to assume many writers or bloggers go through a similar process along with me (please say yes). This all comes down to my own fear about letting other people —people I know or don’t know—have any idea about what I think on a topic. But as I was preparing for Cathy’s Literary Citizenship class, I read these two chapters ”What Editors Want” and “What Authors Want” in The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner.
I honestly don’t remember the first half of the chapter about what editors wanted, mainly because I decided to start reading it at three in the morning as I was getting ready for bed. I wouldn’t suggest this. But even though I don’t remember the content well, I know it kept me awake and reading. I remember I was excited to learn about the different types of things an editor goes through, because I want to be one sometime after I graduate. But I really only have a small idea of what goes on behind the pages I read in a book. And Betsy does such a great job in these chapters discussing her own experiences and those of others that my head is still spiraling with just the idea of what creates an editor.
Now I am sure I could make a list if I tried (and I may later at some point for reference) of criteria on what makes a good editor from these two chapters in Betsy’s book. But that’s not the point of the chapter—to tell writers or editors what they need to do in order to be successful and considered good writers or editors. No, what Betsy’s trying to do is help her readers take what they want/need from the knowledge she is presenting to them. And that’s wonderful; because as much as one might prepare for becoming an editor or writer, when the time comes that preparedness will only be a small portion to what will make them be their own type of success.
I know one of the first ideas in Betsy’s book that struck a chord with me—and the main reason I became excited to write this post—was towards the end of the editor’s chapter where Betsy said this about an editor and writer’s relationship:
An editor builds trust with an author through careful attention to his pages. Suggesting that a writer delete his words is excruciating to some, and the excision must be made with delicacy. (199)
This felt really personal to me because that is exactly how I feel a lot when I am in my creative writing classes and I have others reading my work. That anxiety from a writer’s point of view, which is something Betsy talks about in the author chapter, is horrible if I am being honest. At first. What I mean by that is the more a writer shares with others, the more open they will be to others comments. At least that is how it happened to me. I mean I went from this reaction
as I participated more in my creative writing classes. The anxiety is still there and will probably never leave, but there’s a special connection when someone is editing a piece of work and you both end up on the same page. Sometimes the experience is delicate and sometimes it’s not. I know for me I am much more honest and blunt on an essay or manuscript online than I would be in person. But it goes back to that saying “treat others the way you would want to be treated.” I’ve come to the point where I want people to shred my work apart (even if it hurts at the time) because I know my work will be better in the end. But the quote from Betsy reminds me that yes, shredding can be good, but being sensitive to the writer is just as important for their mindset as it is for a relationship between a writer and editor.
To wrap this up (this was way longer than I had planned) Betsy gives a lot of great advice to future editors that reminds them to be sympathetic to the writers that they chose and that choose them when it comes to working together. I can’t wait to continue reading this book and I hope that any future editors (or writers) will pick up it up because the more knowledge you have, the more you have in your arsenal.
I hope you all have a great day (or night if you are reading it when the darkness is rising)!