Saturday, April 28, 2018

Y = You Think You Can Do it Alone (But You Can't)

Welcome, A to Z bloggers, visitors, and of course all my faithful regular readers! This year's theme for my A to Z:
Short & Sweet Reasons Why You Need an Editor

So without further ado . . .

You may think you can do this book thing alone. The truth is, you can't. Perhaps the underlying truth is, you shouldn’t.

There’s not a person in this world who can’t benefit from the wisdom of someone who’s gone through the same experience, learned the same skills, or tripped over the same obstacle. This is why mentors are so valuable.

To ignore good advice is worse than not seeking advice at all, and yet people do both on a regular basis. If you never look at what successful people do, you may never learn how to be successful—or it simply might take you a whole lot longer than it would have, had you sought advice.

I recently dealt with someone who received feedback from a publisher. He asked me to evaluate the writing, and I (unknowingly) told him the same as what the publisher said. I even referred him to a few other editors so he could get unbiased evaluations. They told him the same things, and yet he kept insisting that they were not qualified to give that feedback—the reasons varied from “this person has the same education level I do and therefore doesn’t know anything more than I do” to “this person didn’t ever mention [particular writing structure] so he clearly doesn’t understand what I’m doing here if he never even used that particular word.”

The actual problem was that this writer didn’t want to even consider the fact that his writing might need work. To insist on working alone is the height of narcissism, and never turns out well for anyone. Embrace good advice, filter out bad advice, and accept that everybody needs some advice at some point. It’s not a failing; it’s just life.

13 comments:

  1. There's an awful lot of work that goes into learning each piece of craft, and putting it together with all the other ones.

    If you keep getting the same advice from different sources, you should look at it more seriously than if only one of your readers dislike something.

    I see lots of negative reviews on very popular books on Amazon. But the time to grow the thick skin is probably after you're popular.

    I keep going back to the story of how John Kennedy Toole's mother pushed his book into a Pulitzer after he committed suicide because he couldn't find a publisher - I wonder if Walker Percy was the first editor A Confederacy of Dunces ran into.

    I'll have to try it some time. The editor could have had no interference from the author!

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    1. It's frustrating when someone continually blames others who have nothing to gain by being honest about the work.

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  2. Hi Lynda - amazing how pig-headed some people can be ... the ones who achieve have so often spent many a time failing, asking for help etc ... and learn so much as they go ... cheers Hilary

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    1. I'm not sure if some people assume that the successful ones do it on their own or what. It's one thing if a single person gives a particular piece of advice, but when everyone is saying the same thing, there's no reason to ignore it other than arrogance.

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  3. Ahh, very interesting. Some people have difficulty with facts. I'll sometimes ask for more information to better understand, but I try my best not to just disregard information. Self-editing is difficult. There's always a little something somewhere that one is bound to miss.

    Great post.

    Thanks for being part of the A to Z Challenge.

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    1. I won't deny that it's tough to hear that we haven't done things as wonderfully as we think we did. But to hear the same concerns from a number of people and deny that the common theme is you—well, that's just pride getting in the way of progress.

      I've been having fun with A to Z this time, but am SO far behind on blog visits! Thank goodness the list and the posts are still available, and I can keep visiting at my leisure. I should be thanking YOU, really. You've really done a good job of keeping this thing organized this year, and I hope everyone is appreciative of how much work goes into it.

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  4. Writing is a solitary sport, however publishing is not. You need a team of people smarter than you in different areas. Lynda, you are smarter than me in editing, my cover designer definitely is smarter than me in artistry. So I call in reinforcements to pull me out of the quagmire. (Thanks for always having a good sturdy rope Lynda.)

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    1. And you're much more creative than I am with world-building. It's like everyone thinking legs are enough when the body needs arms, feet, and a brain. If we all work together, better things result.

      I like the idea of having a sturdy rope!

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  5. I have the most amazing, supportive group of writer friends. We are honest with each other, even if we know it isn't the hoped for feedback. You have to be open to feedback because otherwise you'll never succeed in this business!

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    1. I agree. When I say writing is a solitary sport, I mean that the writing process belongs to you. But once the work is produced then it becomes a team sport with writer's groups editors etc

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    2. I love honest feedback, even when it's not quite what I want to hear. When it's given in a spirit of genuine helpfulness, you realize that the other person has nothing to gain by being that honest—and sometimes, everything to lose, if they're risking a friendship/working relationship to tell the hard truths. In the end, though, solid feedback makes for a solid product.

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  6. A writing mentor sounds like a good idea!
    Probably costly, though.
    It's all about team work.

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    1. Sometimes things are costly, and sometimes a person can find themselves in a situation where they're getting excellent free advice from someone who genuinely knows what they're doing. I love it when that happens. Trying to do everything on your own is often such a time-waster. And you never know if you're actually doing things right until someone with an objective eye takes a look at your work.

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