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Podcast Transcript: Hi, genuine writers! This is Innovative Editing’s Jeannette DiLouie welcoming you to episode #26 of The Genuine Writer Podcast. We keep things short, sweet and to the point here so that you can learn what you need to learn and get back to writing already.
Today’s episode – which is once again continuing the conversation we began last month about some of the things you can learn from creative writing – is sponsored once again by my newest novel, Proving America, the story of Ashley Slasen, an American soldier who gets to witness the birth of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” And let me tell you, that’s one tough birth considering everything that led up to it. We’re talking about massive, crushing defeats by an obvious enemy in the midst of intense national strife, not to mention having to deal with one of the most obnoxious villains the world has ever known.
For those of you who want to know more about all of that – and so many more fascinating fiction and nonfiction details alike – I’ll include a link for Proving America in the description section.
Now, I’m very proud of Proving America, as well I should be. I worked very hard in researching the historical details that allow that story to be: like how the U.S. was a political mess before our national anthem was written. There was so much political infighting between the two parties back then that you’d think it was 2019. I worked very hard in writing that story too, winding my fictional main character through one actual event after another, unraveling history out as the backdrop to my narrative one detail at a time.
And I worked very hard at editing it, removing information that didn’t suit it, adding in words and sentences that would better build it, and revising other segments until they became something truly worth reading.
That’s a lot to be proud of, if I do say so myself. So, go me! Congratulations on a job well done.
But “go me!” and “Congratulations!” only up to a certain point.
As we explained last week, there’s a good side of pride that enjoys not being ignorant and not falling for poor research. The kind that revels in making something significant of ourselves. That’s the worthwhile kind of pride. And then there’s the not-so-great kind: the kind of pride that prompts us to become absolute egocases.
When it comes to that kind of pride, first off, let’s be honest with ourselves. We all have it in us. We can get puffed up about our own accomplishments way too easily, elevating our worth above other people’s because we know more about a certain topic, we’re faster at a certain activity, we can score more in a certain game, we can make more in a certain job, we can, we can, we can, we can. As if that’s where our ultimate value lies.
We’re even capable of being ridiculously proud of being oh-so humble, which is quite the feat when you think about it. That takes some real talent right there.
Bottom line: Not a single one of us is perfect, and we never will be while we’re down here on this Earth. That’s why God gave us other people in our lives: to offer constructive, encouraging feedback and to challenge each other about what we think works and what we think can’t.
And guess what? Creative writing allows for a whole lot of feedback when done properly.
Now, if you’re just fooling around with it, which can be perfectly fine in and of itself, you don’t ever have to show anyone anything. There’s no pressure there whatsoever. For that matter, you can be a serious creative writer who is only writing for himself or herself – whether just this once or in general – and therefore, once again, isn’t ever going to ask for critique. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that either.
But when you want to get it published, let me tell you… the creative writing process is quite the exercise in humility. When it comes to mere writing, we can be on Cloud 9 the whole entire time, congratulating ourselves on our creativity. But once we hand it over to someone else, we’re no longer the end-all, be-all. And that can automatically take us down a peg or two.
First off, there’s the waiting around aspect while someone else, starting with a beta reader (someone who reads what you wrote just to see if it’s interesting), reads your manuscript over. That’s always fun. Even after publishing 12 novels, I still get a few butterflies during that process. Obviously, I want people to like what I wrote. I want them to want to keep flipping pages, constantly asking, “What happens next” or wanting to get to know my characters better.
There’s always the chance they might not, particularly with a mere draft. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever had a beta reader dislike an entire book manuscript before. They’ve only had constructive criticism about various segments. But overall, they’ve liked what I handed them. All the same, there’s always the possibility that I could write a major flop. And I know it.
After I’ve had any beta readers read it over, and after I’ve decided which pieces of insight to use and which not to – more about that later – then I have to give my book-to-be over to my editor. And yes, this editor has an editor.
Any serious, publishing-focused creative writer needs an editor. This isn’t an advertisement for my services either. I’m the first person to say that each writer needs to find his or her own best match in an editor: someone who knows the ropes and respects them, yes, but who also has the right style and price point to match what the writer is looking for. There’s a lot to consider in this regard, and you should never, ever make the decision lightly about who you’re going to allow to be your editor. This is a big deal we’re talking about, and you need to treat it as such. Otherwise, you could too easily get burned.
Here’s one tip about that: Ask the person you’re looking into to give you a free sample for starters to see whether he or she is right for you. That’s one good way to weed out the right from the wrong in this regard.
In general though, any editor worth his or her salt is going to challenge you. And believe you me, mine does. Sometimes brutally.
Because of her, I’ve chopped out thousands and thousands of words. Because of her, I’ve modified whole entire characters. Because of her, I’ve rewritten, rethought and revised. Because of her, my stories are significantly stronger.
And because of her, it’s not quite so easy for me to get a big head about the writing gift that God gave me. It’s a constant study in how awesome this gift is and how I can’t do it as well as I want to all by my little lonesome.
I’m not the end-all, be-all of creative writing. As it should be.
Okie dokie, genuine writers. We’re going to stop there and pick back up next Monday as usual. Until then, thanks for tuning into The Genuine Writer Podcast. I’m always happy you’re here, and I’ll catch you writers on the 22nd. Until then, very happy writing!