“The Haunting of the Red Pen”

Quite recently I took the plunge and hired a freelance editor to “service” a 3000 word short story I had written, and I got it back the other day.

I had no doubts that there would be the usual grammar, spelling, and sentence structure concerns, but when I saw there was 57 edit points my stomach dropped and I broke out in a cold sweat. I quickly scanned through some of the issues and realized that the majority WEREN’T a misplaced comma or spelling error, there were serious writing concerns. I suspect my editor was concerned about my fragile male-ego and did their best to point out things they liked in my story, and for that I’m deeply grateful. Feeling like a talentless fool, I closed the file and tried to ignore the shame that I was feeling.

I didn’t return to it for two days. Instead, I went about my normal life, job, chores, relationships etc… but in the back of my mind the feelings of self-pity and worthlessness churned around and around.

Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer and took a in-depth look at the concerns and suggestions that my editor made, and realized that they were correct. As much as I tried not too, I had “told, not shown”, switched tenses, and failed to set the scene properly before introducing conflict.

My embarrassment returned, I’m almost old enough to be my editors father and here I was making rookie mistakes, then I realized something, I AM a rookie. No one starts out being perfect at something, it takes time, patience, commitment, and a lot of work. I’m not going to get any better at writing unless I WRITE, and use all the resources available to me, such as the editing I paid this person to do.

There is a lesson that several people have shared, but I think I needed to experience before it became “real” to me. That writing is a progressive art and there is always something to learn and improve upon. While the act of writing is usually a solitary activity, we all have an array of people who influence/guide in our lives, and we need to use them. So I’m going to act upon the suggestions of my editor, someone whom I plan on employing again for future projects, and make my story the best I can make it.

Now please excuse me, I have writing to do…

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5 thoughts on ““The Haunting of the Red Pen”

  1. I tend to give myself two days of seething after my critique group tears up my work as well. It always hurts a little. One thing that helps me is using Prowritingaid.com to find my grammar, passive, and tense mistakes (it’s pay-based but you can edit 500 words at a time for free if you set up a log in) so when I do get my stories back, it’s all story based edits.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Steve Fahnestalk says:

    Good for you, to take those suggestions in stride! As a writer and editor myself, I know that being critiqued–especially when it’s not just on grammar–can feel hurtful, but it’s important to listen to what’s being said and see what positive action you can take from critique.

    Of course, the reverse is true as well. Not every editor is savvy enough to see what you’re doing, especially in the fields of fantasy and/or science fiction. The rules for good writing can change to allow for experimentation, as well.

    The important point is what you did catch–that writing is a progression, not a destination. None of us will ever be “perfect,” because perfection–especially in writing–is a moving target.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve worked with the editors at Nimbus Publishing on seven of my books, and I have also indie-published books without an editor – and take it from me, having a good editor is ALWAYS a good thing. I’ve been writing for forty years and I still goof up regularly. Editors catch you where you fall.

    Liked by 1 person

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