I found out on Wednesday that an anthology that I’d edited—L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Volume 35—had won the Critters Readers’ Poll for Best Anthology of the Year.
That’s delightful. This readers’ poll has thousands of fans who vote for the awards, and one of our authors in the book, Wulf Moon, won both for Best Short Story and Best Author! So he really deserves an extra round of applause.
As an editor for this anthology, I’m rely on authors to submit their best work, and I felt that we got some great stories, so many that it became hard to choose which should place first for each quarter. What do you do when you have three first-place stories?
There’s something deeply gratifying about publishing an anthology of stories that you really love.
As an author, chances are good that you’re doing a lot of editing, too. If you belong to a writers’ group, you might be editing the work of up to 50 other people (for a large group). At the very least, you have to edit your own work.
In college, I took a triple major—Editing, Creative Writing, and Modern Lit. I learned a lot about editing, but there are some important tips that I didn’t learn in school.
- Be gentle with authors. When you see a story from a beginning writer, very often it will be full of mistakes and weakness. Just remember: the author’s current level of ability rarely gives much hint at how talented or proficient they will be later in their careers.
A harsh judgment just might drive a new writer out of the field. Praise and encouragement are ultimately more powerful at transforming a writer than negative criticism.
- Remember, when you’re critiquing, it is not your story. I’ve seen editors who struggle to wrest control of a story away from the author and “make it their own.” They may want to change characters and plot lines, or “fix” the tone. When you’re feeling that way as an editor, it’s a sign that the author has done something right. You feel strongly because there are aspects of the story that you love.
Other times, the problems in a manuscript are just in the editor’s imagination. Personal tastes get involved.
Either way, I think that as an editor, my goal should be to figure out what it is that the author is trying to do, understand what story they’re trying to tell, and then see if I can help them better reach their vision.
- Stay humble. I’ve seen editors boast about their prowess, usually while denigrating the very authors they edit.
Think about it: if you’re working for a major publisher and you’re tearing down the career of your lead author—the man or woman who is funding your paycheck—isn’t that self-sabotage? Ain’t it kind of stupid?
An editor might well know a few things that a young author doesn’t. It doesn’t mean much. Billy the Kid was a fine gunslinger—ruthless, cold-blooded, and a dead-eye shot. It didn’t make him an admirable person. Despite his swagger, folks hunted him down and shot him.
In the same way, editors can become bullies with pens. Resist that impulse.
There is a school of criticism that suggests that no matter how great your talent, you cannot be a great writer unless you are first a great person. A mean-spirited or vile person with great writing skill isn’t necessarily a “great writer,” merely a talented writer.
So if you want to be a “great editor,” practice patience and kindness first, and try to be of service to those you are working with—both the writer you’re editing, and the audience that follows.
For the past several months, I’ve been thinking very seriously about how to help as many writers as possible for the lowest cost to them.
The answer was to start the Apex Writers Group–a closed group of writers where I can share information not only on how to write, but how to advance your career quickly, and where you can take classes and network with other fine, dedicated writers to help expand our expertise.
Hundreds of people have already applied. If you would like to join, send an email to email@example.com and type the word APEX.
For some more information look at this post here: http://mystorydoctor.com/do-you-want-to-be-an-apex-writer/