Editing Rant: Editing Those You Love

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One of the hardest aspects of editing is when someone you love asks you to read their work. 

At various times I have: edited close friends (some of whom could write for money and some who shouldn’t), two of my family members (who have potential and needed about as many changes as writers I have edited under contract), teenagers I am mentoring (who need direction on where to grow as writers), and a couple of writers I fangirl over (but still need to be fully edited). Each time is a balance between caring for the person and helping them develop to their full potential in their work had to be found. Like parenting, only without the hugs. Tears, plenty of those, just no hugs.

First problem is dealing with a family member. Whether you are reading their work or they are reading yours, define what is wanted – is this a supportive read (keep going) or a critical read (where am I doing good and what can be better)? Get that defined upfront. Immediately.

Because supportive reads are important. Writing in a vacuum sucks energy (pun intended). Having someone say – “keep going” – may be exactly what they need. This goes for you too – you can ask for a supportive read where they only focus on what is being done well, such as getting 2,000 words on paper in one day. This goes for a family member you are reading for – flutter, hug, and congratulate them on accomplishing something. It is always okay to say “be kind, I’m fragile today”.

Just don’t be fragile every day. Realize some day a critical read will be needed. It might not be this week or this month, but it will be needed.

And family and close friends might not be the best to do the critical read. Not because they can’t be honest. Believe me, my friends are can be BRUTAL. The problem is with writing, they read my words and hear my voice. This is a good thing in writing. If people read your words and hear your voice – that means you have a strong voice. But it also means close friends will put in words which are missing because they hear them all the time; your family will understand short-hand examples because they have the same framework of thoughts, therefore them miss the logic holes in the story.

Which is why an outside editor is helpful. If only women have beta read your book (your mother, your sister, and your best friend), you may want a male editor. If you are a male writer, you may want a female editor. Getting a set of eyes different from those that helped develop the manuscript makes the final product more accessible to more people.

Second problem editing people you love is dealing with developing writers. Similar to family, only without the as-long-as-you-both-shall-live relationship of blood family, finding the balance between “go for it” and “hang on a second” – between support and growth, is a challenge with friends who are trying writing for the first time.

Solutions for developing writers is similar to management techniques – sandwich strengths and weaknesses. Scaffold where they are to where they need to go with exercises and suggestions on what to try. Repot like a plant – provide the right size pot, only do so many changes at a time until they outgrow the pot they are in.

Third problem is editing for established writers you love. Can you turn off the fangirl and concentrate on the writing? They deserve that – the other readers who will be reading their book and falling in love with their writing deserve that. And it isn’t easy, I’m sure everyone has Big-Names which pop into their heads from the book and movie industries who have gotten too big to edit or produce properly. They need to actively seek out people who don’t “yes-men” them if they are going to continue to produce their best work.

It’s okay to be such a fangirl you can’t beta read or edit a writer, but you need to recognize it in yourself and bow out when it happens.

Love is great – but it is an action as much as an emotion. If you can’t help a person to grow in a healthy fashion, show your love by directing them to someone who can. Whether family, friend, or fangirl favorite. Editing and love is about growing better.

Even when part of the growth is tears.