It’s the moment of truth. Your cursor is hovering above the send button. Your heart is pounding and all the superficial fears you’ve been trying to fight are bubbling up to the surface, ready to make you change your decision. You’re about to submit your work.
Whether poetry, short stories, essays, etc., we all have that moment of dread when it’s time to submit to a journal or publishing company. What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll send you a robotic email telling you that they enjoyed your work but it’s just not “right.” If you’re lucky, you won’t hear from them ever again, making rejection a little easier to swallow. I’ve been there. However, if you do get accepted your bubble of joy will burst leaving you covered in a slimy, sticky goo. That goo, friends, is the edits.
The first time I submitted my work to an editor I was terrified. The only people who had read my work were my best friend and my sister. To have someone you’ve never met before read something that, it’s safe to say, is a part of you, can be a little stressful. When I got my manuscript back, I saw red. Literally. All over the place, along with little corrections and comments of confusion. I stared at my computer for five long minutes, seeing the words but not making sense of them. In that short moment, I went through what I call the four stages of writer’s grief. First I was in denial. Things weren’t so bad, and I could totally fix all this. Second I got sad. Actual tears formed, and I was hurt that what I had worked so hard on wasn’t good enough. Third I was mad. I wasn’t angry at my editor but at myself. How did I send in something so bad when I was sure I had gone over every nook and cranny of my story? Finally, I reached the point of acceptance. Her comments and corrections were things that I had never thought about and needed to take into consideration. Since that time years ago, I’ve developed a thicker skin. I welcome the critiques because I want to know what I should fix to be a better writer. Now as a copy editor I’m going to give you a few tips I learned over the years as a writer and editor.
- You can’t spot everything. As writers we like to think that after we’ve ran the spell check and fixed all of the blue and red lines, we’re good. Not always true. Sometimes, we are so close to our work that we can’t see the little things. That’s where your editor comes in. We are trained to eliminate comma splices, make subjects and verbs get along, and get pronouns to agree. Major corrections aren’t always needed, but editors want your work to flow as smoothly as possible.
- They’re just suggestions! You shouldn’t feel pressured to change something you don’t think needs to be changed or eliminate a part that you feel is important. Edits are only suggestions. It’s all for the benefit of the writer. You want your work to sound as polished as possible to avoid confusion with readers. But if you put your comma in the wrong place on purpose or misspelled a word for emphasis that’s okay too.
- It’s nothing personal. Comments made by editors on your work aren’t meant to sound harsh. We aren’t taking stabs at you or trying to belittle your writing style. It’s our job to ask questions if we feel that you might have missed something.
Writing is re-writing. Editing is just one small step toward making your work better. We can’t find all the mistakes ourselves and don’t have to accept the corrections given. However, if we don’t take that leap and force ourselves out of the comfort zone we’ve created, we won’t feel the satisfaction of seeing our ideas in print. So what are you waiting for? Hit send already!
– Sharnita Sanders