I got some advice today stating that I should worry about myself first. Mostly it was intended to refer to my health and my exhaustion level (being a writer with a full-time [some fools would say “real”] job and a chronic health condition can be a challenge sometimes, especially since I haven’t been able to take my medications the way I should). Strongly implied, though, was the opinion that I should worry about my own writing first, especially since I don’t get as much done as I would like even when feeling in top form. (Oh, to be able to spend those nine hours a day with pen or word processing program in hand).
Why did I get this advice? Because I received what I feel is a deep honor–being asked to help edit someone else’s work. I was even offered payment, though I refused. I am not a profesisonal and will, after all, only be offering my personal opinion except when it comes to concrete issues like typos or spelling (nowadays make that spellCHECK) mistakes. Any other changes made will be carefully noted with whys, wherefores, and how the passage originally read as I certainly don’t expect all suggestions, if any, to be taken.
Some will ask why I accepted, with various reasons why I shouldn’t. You could lose a friend, some will say. (Actually, this WAS said, but to someone else in the same situation). Possible, yes, I suppose, but I certainly plan nothing insulting, especially since I already know this particular friend IS a good writer, and I would never tell her she NEEDS to change anything. And she has never struck me as one of those “every word is golden” writers who feels like it all flows fully-formed and perfect the first time she sets pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). And yes, I do know writers like that, who are deeply offended if anyone suggests their first draft is less than bestseller material, no matter how well-intentioned the critique or how good the suggestions are. And I don’t think there’s any danger of either of us getting jealous thinking the other is a better writer because from what I’ve read of hers, our styles are COMPLETELY different, all they way down to basic plot. She usually swings more to the dark side, and while I definitely dabble with that to some extent, mine tends far more to the . . . er . . . light-to-medium grey. Everything else has a different flavor, too. I think it will actually be a good way to challenge myself, to keep any changes I suggest in line with her style instead of mine. Which is a nice lead-in to the next well-meaning advice.
Keep your writing time for your own work, others will tell me (and have, in a slightly different circumstance). Well, in a way I am. The first step in learning how to write is reading, after all, and editing someone else just might give me a fresh eye when it comes time to do the same to my own. Practice makes perfect, after all. Except when it comes to writing there’s no such thing as perfect. It’s not like math, there’s no one answer to it. I suppose you could be technically perfect, meaning you follow every grammar rule to the letter (ha, ha, ha), but that even sounds like something dry. Come on, use your artistic license to spice it up! Use an occasional sentence fragment for emphasis! We all do it! Well, at least all the writers I read are happily guilty.
So, do I feel dumb for accepting the responsibility of editing someone else? Nope. The only thing that I have issues with is that it will probably take me longer than I’d like–for her sake not mine. I have gotten a start, not too far yet, and the only thing I feel is a little uneasiness and a sense that it’s something I don’t have a right to do. Yet I’ve found in my own work that another set of eyes is incredibly helpful. I’ve taken many suggested changes to heart, rejected many others, and improved my writing as a result. I can only hope I can have the same effect for someone else.
Anyway, I should get back to work either way, on hers or mine. Especially since I’m breaking all “rules” of blogging (or “common sense” of blogging more like) and typing directly into the post, sans editing or proofreading, so all the warts will show. I know not everyone will agree with me about editing someone else in the midst of trying to self publish, find an agent for another one, and being in the middle of waiting for a rejection from a publisher on yet another. Oh, and trying to get one polished to send to another small publisher. But it feels like the right thing to do, so no one’s going to talk me out of it.
G’night, all. Best wishes from a fellow hopefull writer.