For those of you who write, or aspire to write, the need for an editor might not be glaringly apparent to you. You might have read and chuckled at “Eats Shoots and Leaves,” or been the county wide spelling bee champ in middle school, or you might consider yourself a self-appointed “grammar police,” silently or openly judging and correcting punctuation and apostrophes everywhere you look.
You might think, as I thought, that your need for an editor is less pressing than some others’. After all, you reason, you’ve seen some horrific grammar and spelling in many other pieces of writing- in fact, you’ve already cringed at several of my commas and hyphens. Yours is miles ahead of the competition. You and spellcheck are doing things just fine, aren’t you?
I thought so, too.
When I wrote my first novel, I was fairly confident in my spelling and grammar- and even in my large scale editing process. I worked from an outline and was fairly sure I had no gaping plot holes or inconsistencies. I had read and re-read my book a few times, and a few other friends had gone over it once or twice and highlighted a couple of tiny mistakes that my spellcheck hadn’t caught.
What else did I need?
My editor, Amy Clutter, took my book and a colored pencil and told me.
She underlined lazy adjectives, asked clarifying questions, crossed out redundancies. She found (horror!) plenty of spelling mistakes that spellcheck didn’t. She caught plot discrepancies, character inconsistencies, and many, many, MANY incorrect commas. Many commas. I like, LIKE, commas. If you know what I mean. She found them all and crossed them out.
My first novel, The Next Chef, tells the story of a home cook’s adventure on set of a reality cooking show. If you’ve ever watched one, you might have noticed that the first episode or two you can be in awe of the amazing skills that the home-cooks have. They produce beautiful, complicated dishes that look astounding to your untrained eye. But when they bring their plate in front of the judges, the experts look at their Beef Wellington with sophisticated opinions. They see things that you and I don’t see. The bottom isn’t crisp. The pastry hasn’t laminated, whatever that means. The tarragon overpowers the goat cheese. They take a beautiful plated dish and after a few thoughtful chews, they tell you everything that’s gone wrong that you never noticed.
My writing got that same treatment. I gave Amy my best dish and was pretty proud of it- and she thoughtfully, kindly, and fairly, dissected and evaluated it, and handed it back to me.
At first, I have to admit I was shocked. Like a chef at her first competition, my first experience with an editor was quite the eye-opener for me. I had gone from being satisfied with my
cooking writing to being shell-shocked at the many edits it needed.
But as I read through her notes, I realized that she was giving me just what every amateur needs- honest corrections. Her kind and gentle questions and comments were so encouraging about my talent and passion, while holding my writing to a stiff standard- one that would allow me to serve my novels up with pride and dignity.
I adjusted my manuscript to fit her edits and found that every suggestion she had made was like a Master Chef giving notes to his kitchen staff. I was shocked and astounded at the finished product, and how improved it was from my initial draft. It still had the same substance, style, and flavor that was all mine- but without all of the novice mistakes that mark an unprofessional.
The way of fools seems right to them,
but the wise listen to advice.
In most reality cooking shows, you’ll notice that over a whole season, not only do the best cooks rise to the top, they themselves often improve immensely under the strict and faithful critiques of the weekly judgings. The ones who are eliminated are not only the ones who didn’t start with the best skills, but they’re often the ones who don’t take the judge’s criticisms and learn from them. In fact, I think that those who succeed in any path are usually the ones who take constructive criticism well.
Amy was that for me. She held writing up to a stiff standard- but not with cruelty or any kind of rudeness.
In terms of ease to work with, she is no Gordon Ramsey or Simon Powell. You don’t have to be afraid at all. She’s more like… Mary Berry. Ha! Her gentle way of suggesting and commenting encouraged me to work harder and not quit. She genuinely seems interested in seeing me succeed as a writer and not be hindered by my own untrained eye.
If you want your writing to progress and improve beyond what you can do on your own, I recommend an editor. In fact, I recommend my editor- Amy Clutter. She is fair, encouraging, easy to work with, and highly skilled at what she does. I love what she’s done with my novels, and I think you’ll love what she could do with yours! You can find her at cluttereditorial.wordpress.com
PS. She didn’t edit this, and if you see any typos or extra commas, I take full credit.