Crowd Editing, Part Two

In the midst of receiving lots of great feedback as well as corrections from the advance readers of Thieves of Fire readers, a writer friend and fellow editor, Kris Lewis, sent me an email with a link to a website that purported to offer free “crowd editing” assistance.
TOF with Ruth's edits for web
He was skeptical about it and I have to admit, so was I. When I checked out the website, I discovered my doubts were justified. It seems that the folks who volunteer to do the free “editing” are upset about the negative pushback they get from their victims, er, writers.

This is so not surprising, so not surprising at all. If there’s one thing I can tell you about newbie writers, it’s this: They are TERRIFIED of being edited. They take every comment and correction personally, very personally, so the pushback  on this free “editorial service” is to be expected.

If you are going to be a professional writer, you either grow a thick skin or die as a one-book wonder. I know that from personal experience because I’ve lived that arc.

I was determined not to be a one-book wonder but I still curled up in a fetal position when I was first edited. It took time but I eventually learned to differentiate between good editing and bad. (More on that at another time.)

I also learned to cherish those editors who, just by the way they cared about language, took the time to teach me how to be a better writer.

Nowadays, I welcome good editing with open arms because I know that it makes my work stronger. It is the most glorious kind of collaboration.

My point here is this, it takes a writer time and persistence to understand that editing is an essential part of publishing, perhaps THE essential part of the publishing process.

You have to force yourself to move beyond your sensitivities, and to understand that when you are done writing a book or article or play or poem, the writing no longer belongs to you. It belongs to your readers, the second half of the writing equation.

Your editor is your first reader, the one human being who will end up knowing your work as intimately as you do. In my opinion, that’s a powerful relationship.

When Kris sent me his email about crowd editing, he asked what I thought. My reaction was twofold—that the efficacy of “crowd editing” was entirely dependent on the maturity and experience of the writer as well as the quality of the author’s work. And given the value of “free,” I doubted that it would work very well.

But there’s editing and then there’s editing. More on that tomorrow.

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