Writing, Editing and Submitting Fiction
I've come to some, by no means final, conclusions about why this debate stirs so much passion in me - and in some others!
To me, although these three areas of the writing life require separate and separated skills, they knit together to make up a holistic practice for the writer who seeks public attention. To write without editing is self-indulgent (if you want to be published), and to edit without submitting is self-defeating.
But it's deeper than that. I came to fiction late, and from a series of peculiar careers. I'd spent a lot of time coaching people; helping them to learn and understand and PUT INTO PRACTICE ideas and behaviours that would improve their lives. As a result, when I look at somebody I look first at their 'happiness' levels and only second at their 'talent'. Those are in inverted commas because actually I believe they are two facets of the same attribute, not two different attributes, but more on that another day.
I think people should be happy in what they do and that they do it better that way. Tortured genius should be an absolute last resort - happy genius is not just possible, it's achievable, if we pay attention to what we're doing.
Writers who get involved in editing, without continuing to write, tend to have a specific mindset - This has to be perfect, it's the best thing I've ever done (and possibly the best thing I'll ever do) and although it's the best, it could still be better, all I have to do is keep working on it.
Writers who write without editing tend to have a specific mindset too - Hey, it's the editor's job to sort this out, I'm a creative and I don't deal with grammar and stuff. Fortunately, they soon find out that's not true, and then they give up writing or learn to edit!
Writers who write and edit and submit tend to just be a little bit more confident. Their mindset could be summed up as - Hey, it's possibly not perfect but it's pretty good - as good as published stuff I've read; I'll polish it once more and send it out, see what the editor says. Meantime I have this great idea that I'm sure willl be an even better story and I'm going to make some notes about it now, so I don't forget it.
Now those are sweeping generalisations, and I know at least two obsessive self-editors who are perfectly happy and quite a few write-edit-submit writers who aren't. But looking back over my mentees and coaching students and classes over the past two years, I can see the change in their confidence and self-belief when they learn to fit the three parts of the published writer's life together. Feeling confident improves their writing because it allows them to take risks with their writing. It allows them to look at their work in a generously critical light, rather than a self-protective or self-hating one. It gives them the robustness to step away from rejection and accept it's not personal. Why? Because:
1 - they know they did a good editing job, without being obssessive about it
2 - they know that any editor might reject their work for reasons that have nothing to do with quality
3 - they know their next story may be even better than this one, so they move on to write the next one.
So that's my two pennorth! Now over to you for your views ...
Oh yes, watch this space on Thursday, when I'm running a very amusing and insightful interview with one of my favourite fiction illustrators.