I Edit For Authors. I Write For Readers.

I’m a writer who loves to write. Yet writing can also be so frustrating as to cause one to stop writing for long periods.

How so? you ask.

If a writer is not clear on why they wrote a certain piece, why they let a certain sentiment float from their pen into an inky, judgmental world, this will come through in their writing and they–and their sentiment–are likely to be lost in this world, lost in the drone of so many voices saying so little, so many pages telling us not much.

There are so many stories I began writing whose main thesis never congealed into a cohesive narrative, and so they will never see the light of day, nor the dark of night. They will forever be known only to me, the writer who, in frustration, called a halt to them.

As I edit books and work with authors to fashion the best books we can, my chief thought is always, Does this sentence or that sentence serve the story? If it doesn’t, I recommend the sentence be excised. The most beautiful writing can’t save a sentence that, while beautiful in style, says essentially nothing of substance. All such sentences do say:  Look at me and the big words I know! Praise be to big-word knowers!

As well as being clear on what they’re writing, authors should be clear as to who they’re writing for.

Some authors write to be lauded by reviewers. They don’t want readers so much as to be talked about in the same breath as David Foster Wallace, Michael Cunningham, or the great F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The great irony of this fact is how Fitzgerald hungered for readers for his Gatsby. Readers he could not find until he’d left the world for good.

Other authors write for readers. They still want good reviews, don’t get me wrong, but they hope their good reviews come from the readers who take time out of their busy days and nights–their hectic lives–to carve out a place for their book. And hopefully said book will lodge forever in the reader’s memory, to be thought on and reread again and again.

I know I am firmly in the latter group. I edit for authors. I write for readers.

 

 

 

 

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A Main Character Leaves In A Huff

I thought, What should I write about today? And I came up with what I think is a pretty good poem. As a writer, I’m always hoping my main character will help guide me through his or her story, leading me to its resolution down what can sometimes be a long and circuitous road. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. When they don’t. it’s usually my fault, and it goes a little something like this.

 

The blank screen of a fresh page mocks

Amid nothing besides night’s darkness and

The tick of a ceaseless clock.

Time travels onward,

A cycle that toys with the mortal,

While my characters, annoyed,

  Sit trapped aboard

A London double-decker.

 

I consider ending them, all of them,

Right here,

The delete button

My own personal wrecker.

“You’re a hypocrite,” I hear the main character yell.

“First you invite us–my family and I–into your  mind.

‘Your story’s fascinating,” you say.

 “One I want to tell.’

And now you threaten us with extinction

Because you have yet to find

Literary distinction,

And you’re not sure we’ll get you there.

Well, fine,

We know when we’re wanted,

And when we’re wasting our time.

We will gladly vacate your mind

And find among your writery lot

Another aspiring writer,

One who’s got

The guts to give us our due,

Who won’t give up

When the edits get tough

Or when the words get stopped up

And won’t flow.”