In a perfect world, where words flow effortlessly and flawlessly onto the page, the act of becoming a writer would be a cake walk. The joy of doing the work well would probably be diminished, too. After all, if any Tom, Dick or Harriett could jot line after line of engaging prose at the drop of a hat, what would be the point of working to improve your own writing?In real life, at least in this life, the challenge to become a decent writer is very real. For those with the passion and the drive, it’s possible. But it’s not easy. The path is long and occasionally arduous. It’s filled with bad grammar, misspelled words, questionable punctuation and the ever present risk of run-on-sentences.It’s a jungle in here.
If you find yourself struggling with less than compelling paragraphs, don’t sweat it. We’ve all been there. Not every word Mark Twain put on paper was golden. Our current best seller list is rife with authors who struggle with phrasing, character development and plot points. The fact is, writing is hard. But it’s a powerful calling. If you’ve got the bug, my condolences. There’s nothing to be done now but surrender to the struggle for perfection – and learn to settle for less.
Editors, while having a bad reputation – possibly due to their horrible portrayal on television and in the movies – just might be your most important asset. I never saw Perry White edit a thing. The man was always steaming mad, yelling at Jimmy Olson or admonishing Clark Kent over some idiotic thing or another. But I never heard him question a source or suggest a stronger lead to reporter.
Real editors are a bit different. In the worst of situations they can save your work, improving it dramatically while teaching you valuable lessons about the trade. They can also become good friends, trusted allies and perhaps most important – a fine placement service with a line on where a new opening just surfaced for an aspiring writer.
Periodically I’ll sit down with an editor I’m working with to ask for feedback. We might do it in person, or we might correspond over long distances via e-mail. Either way, the editor has something to teach me that will make me better, provided I’m willing to listen. If he doesn’t offer his opinion unsolicited, it’s worth taking a shot by asking. Whatever the answer, I’ll come away from the exchange with a better understanding of what he wants to see in the future. And I just might become a stronger, more marketable writer in the process.
So don’t fret if you’re not performing to the level you’d like to as of yet. Keep banging away. Be critical of your work to the point that you’re willing to do a re-write on your own if you need to. And practice asking the very serious question, “How could this be better?”
It couldn’t hurt
Author – Burritos and Gasoline