The #1 Thing Writers Fear

Wonder what it is like to live a day in the life of an editor? Curious about what I frequently hear? Well, I’m going to step out from behind my curtain and tell all.

“I am so afraid I’m going to have to change something.”

“I really don’t feel like doing work after I’ve spent so much time on this already.”

“Do I have to cut this? I absolutely love it.”

“Really great authors don’t have to edit. Why should I?” 

Stop! It’s tough love time. (Fortunately, tough love time doesn’t involve Hammer pants.) 

While I understand your fear of changing things, I don’t think it is necessary. I see change as inevitable when editing a book. If you send your work to an editor, you should expect to make changes. That’s how your book gets really great. 

As for not wanting to do work, I will quote The Princess Bride: “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” The work in writing is not just in the first draft phase. To be honest, that is the least amount of work. The real blood sweat and tears come into play when you are editing.

You don’t want to cut something? Awesome. I didn’t either when my editor told me to cut a whole draft. I did it anyway because that’s what’s best for the book. Then I had to cut half of it for the next draft. I am okay with that because it’s not about me. It’s about the reader. It doesn’t matter if I will love it. It only matters if the reader will.

Finally, every great writer edits. A lot. Fitzgerald originally had The Great Gatsby in third person and rewrote the whole thing so it was in first person. Do you think you are better than Fitzgerald? That you get a special pass and he doesn’t? 

I can imagine you want to quote Taylor Swift at me at this point and tell me to calm down, but it’s really, really important. As writers, we can’t be scared of the editing process. The feedback we receive is not a judgment of our talent and abilities as writers. It only tells us what worked and what didn’t in that one draft.

Want to know what is a true indicator of the talent and potential of a writer? How much they are willing to revise. 

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