Friday, November 01, 2013

We still friends, honey?

I would rather not "help" people with their writing. For one thing, I take editing and interfering with a book very, very seriously. It's sacred ground to me and I'm afraid I'm wrong. I would rather not ruin someone. I've gotten enough rejection slips by now to know what one editor likes, another just hates.

This used to surprise me, but it doesn't by now. Early in my career when I went ballistic over a book doctor's suggestions I got wonderful advice my agent. I said "this guy was supposed to be smart." How can I tell when someone is right? I want to learn and grow as a writer."

She said "you don't trust nobody kid. You don't trust your enemies, and you certainly don't trust your friends. And you never change your book just because you think someone is smart. You only change a manuscript when it resonates in your gut."

I'm amazed at how that works. I know at once when something applies to my writing. . A comment doesn't even have to be about my own book and it hits me like a guided missile. I heard a professor say once in an informal group setting, "follow the man. Always follow the man." It instantly hit me that I had started my  book in someone other than the protagonist's head. He had never read my book. He didn't know me from Adam's off ox. But there it was!

Learning to write is an on-going experience. I've never had a creative writing course and had to learn the hard way. And learning to leave another person's writing alone has come hard too. Also, I don't think I quite have the knack of doing this well. Too often people simply never speak to me again. It makes me very sad. And puzzled. They said they wanted help and my opinion.

I can only hope these fledgling writers hone their instincts and come to enjoy learning to write. I still love those "aha" moments and the awe I feel when I come across a perfect phrase or book that simply couldn't be better. I am so very, very grateful my books were published and that someone wants to read them.


Aline Templeton said...

I do so agree, Charlotte! I have made it a firm policy never to comment on other people's books after a close friend was so deflated by my failure to assure him that this was bound to be a best-seller that he never wrote anything again.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Aline, that's so sad. My sympathy. Honestly, I just hate to critique people's work and it amazes me that people who know even less than I do just plow right in like they are the voice of God.