I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. I still have bits and pieces of shorts I wrote when I was young, and somewhere buried in a notebook, I have a “Noir” story I tried to write in high school. My heart was in the right place, but my skills were lagging behind.
I got more serious about writing in my 20s, even as I pursued my teaching degree and taught professionally. In 2013 we moved to Wyoming, and I took a break from teaching. I got my first traditional publishing opportunity the following year, and after that, I took a lot of classes on writing fiction and comics. I still take classes whenever I can.
After someone was a jerk online last week, one piece of advice I always share with creator friends kept echoing in my head.
“You should hire an editor.”
While I still don’t think it’s right to be an asshole on online (people brush it off, but studies show online negativity can have a heavier impact than face-to-face interactions), I’ve been wondering why this tiny bit of advice was so controversial for some.
But that reaction did get me thinking about one thing I’ve noticed in the past 7 years in fiction/comics/blog editing and writing.
Letting others look at your work is difficult.
There’s a fear there, one that I often share, that if you let someone else influence your work or point out the flaws, they’ll end up chipping away at the parts of the work that make it yours.
While I understand that fear, I don’t think it’s completely true. You do have to grow thick enough skin to know when and where to stand up for your work, but most of the time your editors, writer friends, and artist friends giving feedback want to enhance your message.
But every time I get my nerve up and offer my scripts or stories up for critique, the work gets better, not worse. My editors and friends notice small details I can fix, characters I can deepen and imagery I can strengthen. As long as I stick to my guns, my voice does not get lost in the editing process.
I used to think when I said, “You should hire an editor,” I was trying to self-promote. I thoroughly enjoy the process of editing and helping others present their best possible story. But when I give that advice, even if I’d love to edit for my friends/acquaintances, that’s never my aim.
I don’t care if they hire me. I want them to seek feedback because I know it’ll help improve their story, and possibly, their writing process. It’s always helped me put a better foot forward with my own stories.
Putting yourself out there is hard, but worth it.
It’s also necessary for growth. And it’s often essential in comics because you usually work with a creative team.
Building the muscles for taking and integrating feedback will help you work with others. I’ve edited for people who are generous and kind, even when they have a conflict with the feedback I’ve shared. I’ve also given input to writers early in their careers who don’t think they need any help. These are always instances where they asked me to edit or review their work, so it was never unsolicited critique.
Learning to take feedback with equal parts grace and stubbornness is a good skill to have. Stand by what you want to keep in your story and fix what you can to make it better.