Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teen Inklings Vol. 14: The Editor

I strive to learn from my mistakes. It’s not always easy to do that, but it’s always worthwhile.

Most of the mistakes I’ve made can be found on this e-zine. Scroll down and take a look at all the advice I’ve given on so many different topics. Those posts are the fruit of learning from my mistakes. By making those errors and learning from them, I can help you guys avoid them.

That’s why I write these e-zines every month. It’s for you guys.

I’d planned for this post to be about editors and their roles at publishing houses, but I decided that’d be worthless information at the moment (though if you’re into worthless information, click here).

What you really need to know is that you are your editor. At first, anyway.

For what seems like the past million years I’ve been editing the first novel I ever wrote. As I type this, only 24 hours has elapsed since I finished writing that novel for the second time.

I wish I’d done things differently, but it’s too late now. Time to learn from my mistake and pass what wisdom I can onto you.

So here goes…

If you’re passionate about a story idea—something you know needs to be written—but have never written anything and had it critiqued by people who know what they’re talking about, don’t write that novel.

Write a different one. Have it critiqued by people who know what they’re talking about. Learn from your mistakes, stuff that test novel in an obscure cabinet, and then… then write the novel you’re passionate about.

I wasted a good chunk of my teenage life writing a 150 thousand word manuscript that sucks. The passion was there, but buried under miles of horrendous craftsmanship.

Let’s face it, readers don’t care much about “telling” or adverbs. So why master the craft of writing fiction?

Because the passion behind your stories can only be inhibited by poor writing. A reader reads a book because they want to be lit by the flame that drove the author. They want to experience new things. Escape for awhile. Be inspired.

Imagine someone giving you a piece of candy, but first rubbing it in the dirt. On the inside, that candy still tastes good—but the faint taste of dirt will ruin the whole point of eating the candy in the first place.

There are many famous books out there as filled to the brim with passion as they are bad craftsmanship. Twilight comes to mind. There’s no doubt that the zeal inside of that book has set fire to many readers (mostly tween girls), but look at the top Amazon.com reviews of Stephenie Meyer’s first book. They all mention how the bad craftsmanship of the novel kept them from enjoying it.

Now let’s look at a book filled with passion as well as good craftsmanship: The Hunger Games. Look at the top Amazon.com reviews for Suzanne Collins’ book. None of them mention craft issues. That’s because it’s a sound novel.

See the difference? Bad writing affects your reader for the worse, even if it’s in a subtle way. Good writing helps you tell a more passionate story.

That’s why you should edit and continually strive to get better. I believe in the book that I just finished rewriting, so I took the time and edited it. It could’ve been less painful, but that’s the way it was. No regrets.

I can’t stress enough the importance of finding experienced writers to critique your work and mentor you. But you have to be careful here. If you’re mentored early on by someone who thinks they know what they’re talking about but really doesn’t, that’s going to do damage. So judge people by their merits.

Something else every writer should understand is that no first draft is flawless. You need to fine tune your paragraphs and let other people read your manuscript so they can give you their opinions on what you could change. Because you are your editor. You can either slack or put in the effort to write the best book you possibly can. It’s up to you.

The last bit of advice I’ll give you this month is something that applies to life as well as writing: never give up. If you’re passionate about something, pursue it with every fiber of your being.

That’s all this time. Come back next month for my recap of what I learned at the ACFW Conference.


  1. Awesome post :) Precisely describes what I struggle with! Hopefully I'll apply this to my writing soon :P


  2. did you ever annouce the winner to your giveaway? If so I feel really stupid because I totally missed it.

    With Love and Blessings,
    Bleah Briann

  3. Thanks Chris. I agree. Helpful!

    I loved the analogy of a dirt-covered bit of candy--somehow, I think it was a pink piece, strawberry flavored . . . :)

    S. Dahnim

  4. My corneas were glued to the monitor as I read your words of writerly wisdom... and I agree; I still struggle with my writing . Visit my website, top19teenbloggers.com and help rate the bloggers. GBY!