editing Archives - The Jose Vilson



As most of you know, I’m currently in the editing phase of writing my book. I’ve sent it to a plethora of friends and family for solid readings, and that nudged my writing upwards. Now I have one person fully dedicated to looking at every word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter, pondering on how I take my manuscript from “good enough to get me published” to “if you miss reading this, you’ll never sit at the cool kids table.” Or something like that.

The worst and best part about the process is: it hurts like hell.

When you care about the craft of writing, putting words together so they don’t just make sense, they transport the reader into your shoes for a hot minute. Having someone even mess with the order of the words feels like they’re criticizing your person, as if your work of art and inner thoughts aren’t good enough. It’s especially true when someone says, “Oh, this is good!” but then leaves all these red marks all over the sheets.

That’s why I use grey ink instead of red. Actually, I prefer any other color besides red. Red scares me.

Yet, as with so many other writers, we all need editors. Hell, even the editors who write need editors. If we constantly have the need to correct others when they misread something we write, or want to “leave something they way it is” more often than letting someone suggest a clearer way of saying something, then we ought to consider why we write.

Writing is, above all else, the art of communicating with intent. To the degree to which we convey this message, integrating our respective and collective humanities into the works, is what makes our message powerful. It’s hard to tell how much power we have sometimes without a clear gauge for it. Commenters and fans work, but so does someone whose sole focus is that critical eye.

Thus, we as writers must learn to lose control, as awkward as that sounds. Sometimes, the right set of eyes can magnify your message, and that’s the task entrusted in my current editors. Any of them.

So here’s my message to those starting NaNoWriMo soon: if you know where the critique comes from, don’t take it personally. Exposing your work to others is often a blessing, and makes you the best you. Even if you’re not actually writing a novel per se, you’re working on your writing daily, trying to find your voice, and hoping you find a rhythm that may lead to a longform piece. Just know that someone’s out there reading it, and you disregard what a true editor has to say about the piece, your piece will land with a current reader, a future fan, or a hater.

Two out of three ain’t bad. I just hope you hit your mark.


p.s. – I got over the hurt of having my pieces edited a long time ago. Now, I love the dialogue around the pieces, smiling all along the way.

*** photo c/o http://janefriedman.com/ ***

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A Letter To A Writer Who Doesn’t Want To Hear It

by Jose Vilson on June 5, 2011

in Jose

Dear burgeoning writer,

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but we need to talk. It’s the same talk my editors had to have with me after my first few submissions, and one that I never had to have again afterwards. You see, for writers that care, the act of writing is a personal craft, and I can’t deny how hard it is to get your writing critiqued because it is a piece of you. Whether it’s a personal poem or an objective article, you put in all this time into your piece, hoping that you’ll get the same exact feedback that all your friends do:

“Oh, you’re such a great writer!”

“That was awesome. I’m really excited that you wrote this piece.”

“Your performance of the piece was stunning. I feel it right here [points to heart or temple].”

So, when you came to me asking me to give you feedback, I was under the impression that you wanted me to give you constructive feedback, the type I’ve learned how to give, and the type I succumb myself to constantly. When I asked these individuals to edit my work, we were both under the assumption that, whatever talents I might possess as a writer, I would work hard to push my writing to be better, because there’s no such thing as a perfect first draft. They didn’t always qualify my writing with “good” and “wonderful” as a whole (or bad and terrib, and the compliments come in the form of statements and observations.

I might think I hit the nail on the head when I first wrote a piece, but the editor  will come back with a critical question that will make me think I hit the nail sideways instead.

And here’s the trick: the writing is personal, but the editing is not. A good editor can look at a piece and see whether it most clearly expresses the point the writer was trying to make, or plays well to the nuances and writing style of the author, and turn those observations into questions and comments that the author can take back with them as they plow through that particular piece (and future pieces)! I didn’t understand that when I first heard / read feedback, but, after reading pieces I did even three years ago, I notice the absurd flaws I made in my writing.

I wish I had an editor then.

I’m not saying the editor is 100% correct either. Some editors don’t come in with the same vision you do, or may not be attuned to your experiences that you’re sharing. However, if that’s how one person reads it, you can only imagine how many more will interpret it the way that one person did. Thus, when editors edit, it’s more important to take it as a lesson, even when you disagree with the edit. Good editors aren’t editing to tear you down as a writer, it’s to help you see something in your piece that you haven’t.

Whenever someone tries to edit my piece, I always note how well they’re doing it based on the quality of the feedback, even when it hurts. And that’s OK. After you’ve gotten critiqued well and often, you get better. And so does your writing. Don’t take it personal.

Jose Vilson, who thinks it gets better