Saturday, February 13, 2021

The pen is mightier than the sword


The past two weeks have been quite challenging, and that's the reason why I have taken a small break from blogging.

Now, with a fresher mind, I can go through the problem encountered. I hope nobody ever has to go through the same trouble, but if so, I hope my experience will help them too.

An author doesn't write the perfect manuscript on the first draft; sometimes, he'll need ten or more drafts before he can (almost) confidently click the button "Publish" and send his words to the world.

A writer is made of doubts, second thoughts, dilemmas, fears. But how can he or she get over those overwhelming feelings and courageously send the raw draft to a beta reader, to an editor to find help in the shaping of the final product, a novel readers will love?

Most of the time, it's a leap of faith unless you already have an editor to work with. The contract between the writer and the editor is a question of trust and honor both parties will respect. The professional editor knows perfectly that the manuscript he or she will receive is far from being perfect. It might be plagued with plot holes, plot bunnies, repetitions, missing explanations, typos, stilted dialogues, and everything a creative mind, in the excitement of the writing process, didn't grasp.

This is valid for new authors as much as for seasoned ones. Writing isn't easy.

In my short career, I had to change three different editors. All of them helped me to improve my style, find my voice, found the holes, and pointed out how to fix them. I owe a lot to those amazing people and will never be grateful enough for their precious help.

Then something happened. My regular editor couldn't take any other jobs, and I needed to search somewhere else. Fate brought me to knock at the wrong door and choosing an unprofessional self-proclaimed editor. I decided to have developmental editing because the novel I had was a recovered version, and I couldn't say whether it was the latest I pre-edited or not. For this reason, I also sent the first two chapters because I wanted the editor to have a perfect idea of what to be expected. Sending the two chapters means that the editor is going through them and evaluate whether he/she feels like the job would require skills he/she doesn't have or will require more time than the forecasted. Obviously, he/she didn't even open the document and agreed to the contract.

I said the document was a recovered one, and there were some plot holes. After 45 days, as a result, I received a nasty email full of insults about my writing style, the plot, the main character, and myself, together with a hardly edited text. For two weeks, I tried to overcome the feeling of those insults, but it hadn't been easy. 

For two weeks, everything I tried to write felt like a complete failure, and the only desire I had was to quit everything, including my whole existence.

I need to thank my husband, my sister, and all the wonderful people of the author group I belong to, who understood that no editor should ever resort to personal attacks, insults, and never should feel free to belittle a customer.

That customer is a writer already filled with doubts; she/he doesn't need any further. Had I been more lonely or fragile, this editor had a human life on his/her conscience, and that's absolutely not a joke or an exaggeration.

If you are an author and find yourself in my same situation, please seek comfort between the author community around you, and ignore those negative people who can't do their work professionally. Editing is hard work, as hard as writing. It requires skills you can't merely improvise, empathy, understanding, and the ability to fix a first draft. This is particularly true when the editor offers developmental editing services.

So, my fellow authors, keep writing and keep positive. But most of all, find a professional editor to polish your future bestseller.

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