Sunday, September 29, 2013

Day 56 of 365: Editor-in-Chief of the House

I briefly mentioned a few days ago about my husband being my main editor when it comes to my writing. In some weird twist of fate, my husband -- the Sensible Engineer and Current MBA Candidate -- has a better grasp on the language arts than me. Than I? Than me. Fuck.

His library of paperbacks and hardcovers is easily three times the size of mine. Which doesn't sound too bad, until you factor in all the actual library books that he had on loan and the collection of books on his tablet (which is easily the size of his physical library, if not more). His vocabulary is so vast that it makes playing Scrabble an absolute bitch (unless we're on the same team). His understanding of story arcs and sentence structures is on a completely different level than the average -- even the above-average -- human being.

This meant that the red pens were a-flying when he read over my first manuscript. Part of me wasn't hurt by the mark-ups; I did write the book between the ages of 21 & 23, and my writing still had a touch of the "overly flowery and intentionally awkward" style that plagues every English major. But it did very little for my ego to see just how poor my wording was. Nearly every sentence in my first chapter had some type of markup. Lost antecedents. Passive voices. Uneven symmetry in a sentence. I felt like I was back in 11th grade honors English, where my English teacher ripped apart my thesis, going so far as to scribble, "NO" across an entire paragraph.

But, still, I took it in stride. I picked up the pieces of my self esteem and went back at rewriting my manuscript. I knew better than to stamp my feet and refuse any criticism from an engineer. When I was 21, he looked over the outline for the manuscript and turned it on its ear, pointing out where my story arc faltered and how I could make it better. A week later, one of my writing professors looked over my synopsis and said, downright verbatim, the exact same thing.

Stephen King is very candid about the role his wife plays in his writing. If his wife doesn't like it, he changes it. If his wife suggests something, he takes it to heart. Never once does he roll his eyes in response (I'm assuming). She's his main editor, more so than any member of his writing group, more so than his own agent or publishing firm editor.

I feel like one of the most vital necessities for a writer is a loved one who can break down what you are doing in an intelligent and constructive way. They don't have to have a library of 800+ books to tell you what you are doing wrong (and right). They just need a passion for literature and a keen eye. And an ability to support your writing so much that they're willing to critique every single word, even as you slink back in your chair and sulk.

I credit my husband with kicking the Flowery Word habit and fine-tuning my ears to the cadence and flow of my writing. Granted, a blog where I downright stream-of-conscious after being awake for not even an hour seems like a bad place to tout my improvements in writing, but, eh, oh well.

At the end of the day, he is my editor-in-chief. I'll trust his word over any agent's (especially after seeing some of the "helpful changes" agents have suggested to now-successful writers with now-bestselling novels) and I'd put his opinion on par with the top editor at any of the Big Five publishing houses.

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