When the first Gulf War started, I sat in front of my television sobbing because this boy had told me his dad was in special forces in Iraq, and I couldn’t imagine what it must feel like to know your dad was in danger. Then, this boy called and told me that he might get sent over because he was half British and that was the British custom. I nearly died from the sobbing.
My parents were away that night, and so I just sat, hysterical, and watched the anti-aircraft fire in that awful green glow.
By the time my parents got home, I was spent, too exhausted to do more than weep. The same the next day at school when my friends tried to comfort me.
So it wasn’t until days later that I told my mom about this boy’s potential need to ship out. She looked me in the eyes and, as clearly and softly as she could, she said, “I don’t think that will happen, Andi.”
I responded with the “why” and the tears of teenage hormones, and she talked about his age and the fact that he was in school. By the end of the conversation, I was calm. Another voice, another mind, another pair of eyes on the situation had made it so much better.
Whenever I hear writers talking about how they “edit their own work” or don’t need to hire an editor or proofreader, I shudder a little because I know how much I cannot see in what I have written. I know how those doubled words and those odd spellings go unseen when I re-read my pages. I know that the scene that seems so clear because, well, I imagined it can be absolutely befuddling to a reader who does not reside in my own head.
I know that I need that editor to say to me, clearly and softly, “Andi, you need to make some changes here.”
It’s hard to let our work go into someone else’s hands, and it’s even harder to take criticism and suggestions when we’ve put so much into the writing. If you’re at all like me, your first response is often to dismiss the advice because the editor “doesn’t get me” and try to justify what – probably – I already knew was not really working in a piece. It’s easier to stick to the way things are, even if those things are wrong or ineffective.
But the truth is that we have the option to either hire an editor and be embarrassed and defensive with one person. OR we can publish without an editor and be embarrassed and defensive with the world. It’s our choice, really.
So writers, I hope you’ll hire an editor – a calm one who can tell you clearly what isn’t working and maybe make suggestions about what you might try instead. If you can’t afford to hire someone, maybe you can barter – promotion for proofreading. Or maybe you just have good friends who are willing to read – and read critically – because they love you. (Although, be leary here – sometimes we go too easy on our friends).
Please, have someone else read your work before you submit it. Because there’s nothing worse than looking back later and seeing that you made a big blunder publicly. Trust me, I know.
It turns out that this boy – well, he was a pathological liar. . . and I didn’t know for years.
What holds you back from using an editor? What benefits have you seen from the process?