You Need an Editor

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.

person using green typewriter on brown wooden surface
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

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.


Proverbs 12:15

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

Sincerely,

Brianna

PS. She didn’t edit this, and if you see any typos or extra commas, I take full credit.

 

When do you write?

Okay, I have a plan. I think I need to wake up early.whenwrite

My normal day is full of homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, and… okay, reading. I like to read.

I also like hanging out with my husband. He’s a quality-time love language kinda guy- and he works from home, and I (sometimes) do the bookkeeping. So that’s some time.

Also, our house is never empty. Between working from home and homeschooling, the most alone time I get is in the afternoons, after the kids finish their schoolwork (2:30ish.) and before I start dinner (4:00ish.) Which is a sorta long time… But you have to also take into account that I’m a little lazy! And it’s easy to get distracted by a phone call or a book I’m reading or podcasts or a recipe for applesauce muffins or scrubbing the cabinet fronts (hahahah… Gotcha. That was a good one. Scrubbing.)

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No, for reals. When I wake up at the same time as everyone else, and I’m around all day, it’s hard totake advantage of the time I have in the afternoon… I get a little work done, but I often waste it.

So I think I need to get up early. I need to set my alarm, go to sleep early, and then when it goes off I need the discipline to crawl out of my warm cozy blankets… and write. Early morning is great, isn’t it? I mean, it’s quiet. it’s lovely. It’s… the early morning, right?

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We’ll find out.photo 1_picmonkeyed (3) photo 1_picmonkeyed (2)

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To Outline, or Not To Outline.

So. Here’s a little story of my (limited) experience with outlines and fiction writing.outline2

Here’s me, la-dee-da-dee da. I’m writing a novel! yay! But novels are big and scary and long and full of rat holes you can start down and get trapped in. So I say to myself, “Brianna, here’s the deal. Read you some plot books and then plan out your plot ahead of time! No wasted tangents or wild goose chases. Or rabbit trails! Or any other cliches, for that matter!”

So I does it. Doose it. Whatever.

I make a pretty little outline. It’s incredibly detailed. It tells me where I have to have my character happy, where she has to fail, where she has to face a cliff… Everthing! And then I start typing.

Type typetype type tyPE backspace type type type.

When the going gets tough, which is… like all the time, I even make mini outlines. Not only do I plan out the chapters, but I even sometimes make outlines for 800 words, telling myself what needs to happen in each 100 words. (Haven’t tried this? It’s very helpful.) And no, I don’t COMPLETELY hold to the outline, but it’s super handy.

BUT THEN. Oh then.

I finish that novel, (woo-hoo!) And awhile later, I start another one. This time I’m all pumped up! I can write a novel! That wasn’t that hard! Let’s do it again!

But this time, I’ve been reading this nonsense about not outlining. About silly things like “Seeing what the characters do.” And I think to myself… “Brianna, maybe that’s the more creative, artsy, REAL novelist way to do it!”

outline1

So this time, no outline. (Okay, there’s a little bit of an outline, I’m not THAT crazy.)

But really. Lots of times the outline is like: “They go on a bad date.”

And so then I’m writing,

type type type type

And I’m thinking, “Whoa! This is fun! These characters sure are… characters!” (haha, laugh.)

It’s like a little surprise, I don’t know what they’re going to do all the time!

Suddenly I understand all these quotes on pinterest for writers about being surprised by your writing and characters and things they say. I’m having this completely bohemian experience… It’s awesome!

type type type

But sometimes… It’s not. Sometimes I’m writing, and the characters are doing things and saying things that I think are stupid. Or boring. Or not related to the story I’m telling AT ALL. And sometimes I think, “THAT’S going to get deleted later.” But worse times… I think “Oh, no! This part is lovely! And it doesn’t fit this story at all…” *Cue Lucille Ball type crying.*

But I press on. I type and type and type and type, and then. I get. to THE END.

And do you know what I find?

Oh NOOOOOEEESS.

My novel is a STINKING MESS!!! Seriously! All these scenes are WRONG or they’re right but in the wrong PLACE and I wasted all this time on these parts that have NOTHING to do with ANYTHING, only they were fun to write and now I have to do all this major OVERHAULING AND CRAZINESS!!!

outline3

Never.

Again.

I am completely, decidedly, one hundered percent on the Outline Team.

At least, I will be on the next novel. If there ever is a next novel. Because I’m going to be re-writing this one for like a billion years.

So what about you? Team Outline or Team Crazy?

😉