It can be a very insecure life being a writer, especially before you start to see your work accepted.
But even when you do, if you’re like me you keep moving the goal posts and challenging yourself.
So when you have a new story accepted or published, as happened last week with Open Windows, and a writer who you greatly respect says something really complimentary (someone whose work really sits up there in the short story field) you think, wow. Really? And then you think: phew.
There are so many of us out there trying to get validation with our work, so every little comment or nice review makes a massive difference. Writing is basically something you sit and do alone and so as a writer you do sometimes think: okay great this is really working and other times you think, this is pants. That’s being a writer, that’s also very much part of process. First drafts of anything have those pants moments but the more your chisel and refine your work, you more you come to know when it is working.
Working as an editor also helps and I think one of the things I can see has really developed the more I work with writers, is being able to look at people’s plots and shapes of stories. I think getting up close and finding issues with the plot is fundamental to those big second drafts, and often we just don’t see the issues when we get too close. Story analysis is something I seem to have refined more and more as a skill to try to help other writers, and to help my own writing of course: it’s the who, why, where, what does the protagonist want, what’s at stake and who or what is standing his way that might sound fundamental but actually make the difference between something really working or it not working as it should. Being able to pin down what’s not working and might be stopping an author getting work accepted is a vital component of my work, so I am also learning and looking for new ways to ensure this is achieved in my editing work.
Getting up close to the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts stuff once we have looked at story shape and character motivation is actually the easier part usually to put right, those clunky phrases, out of context metaphors, clichés, telling etc.
I do care about the process and my clients, so if, as happened recently with a client, it seemed they had not quite grasped something important that I felt was essential for their novel to work, I couldn’t relax until I had I arranged a call to talk about it. I feel as if I am nurturing something very personal and so it has to be right, and handled right. Your stories are after all your babies, right? So come into my world and I will be mindful of that. I think it helps that I am a writer too.
But even when you have a reasonable grasp of all of this, it still can be isolating, so when someone appreciates your work, take the compliment and let it boost your day.
Have a great day everyone.