Therese and Kath here to introduce the newest member of the WU team. You’ve seen independent editor Victoria Mixon here before. We love her for her ability to plumb the depths of craft knowledge, her commitment to making hard-to-understand concepts understandable, and her personality. So when she offered to provide a column to us for the upcoming WU newsletter–a column full of craft and editorial questions provided by our readers, and answered in advice-column style–we couldn’t resist. We thought it could be a good idea to give you a taste of what she’ll be offering readers in her “Ask Victoria” column for us, so that’s what today’s post is all about.
A big thanks to the WU Facebook Community for sending questions to Victoria; she’ll be using several of them moving forward. You can submit questions too, by leaving them for Victoria here in comments. Enjoy!
Dear Victoria, Column One
Aside from meticulous proofreading, how can we, as writers, make your job easier?
Hungry for Knowledge (AKA Kristin Pedroja)
Dear Hungry (AKA Kristin),
The best thing you can do, as a writer, is be open to the extraordinary complexity, scope, and sheer hard labor of writing a novel. Random typos aren’t a problem. But you must set your ego tenderly aside and bring to your editor your deep and abiding passion for this manuscript and this craft.
Although I’ve worked with dozens of clients, I’ve never seen a manuscript that didn’t need a lot of work. And these are final drafts! Novels that clients have brought to me secretly thinking, ‘She’s going to catch a few typos and tell me she stands in awe.’ I know this because they tell me about it later, laughing after they’ve learned just how much more there is to the story they want to tell—how much deeper and more satisfying this work is than they ever dreamed, but how much more complicated.
In three years, I’ve only had one client ever respond really badly to the Developmental Letter I sent, and that was someone whose goals for their novel conflicted head-on and with great vigor with the goals of publishers and—more importantly—readers. I was nice to them about it. I’m always nice. But unless you’ve already been published and/or worked in publishing, you probably don’t entirely know what a difficult job it is to make readers addicted to reading, publishers wild to publish.
At first it can seem like too much to ask that you perform that huge job, especially when you’re already staggering from the work of producing all those words in the first place. So getting advice might not always feel terrific. Initially, it can feel quite overwhelming.
And that’s okay! You’re addicting to writing, so writing is what you do. It’s wonderful work! It’s a fabulous life. And it’s not intuitive, how to step out of the role of writer into the role of a scientist who studies readers and the novels they have made canonical over the decades, or into the shoes of a literary therapist whose work is to teach writers to understand stories from the reader’s (quite specific) perspective, with all its hidden expectations.
I can absolutely assure you that your initial sense of overwhelm will transform magically into ever-growing, passionate enthusiasm, so long as you keep your focus on the work and the joy of learning and communicate freely with your editor. All those effusive praises from clients that I put up on my blog? All from writers who’ve been through the fires.
Choose an independent editor you really like, someone you can trust. . .and then trust them. If they’re hurtful about how they give their advice, you know, walk away. But so long as it’s clear they’re working always for the success of your novel and from a fund of extensive knowledge, and they’re nice to you and encouraging of your skills and potential, and they let you know they understand how hard it is to write a novel and, especially, to get edited—be open.
That editor is your angel.
Have questions for Victoria? Leave them here in comments, and you may see them answered in an upcoming edition of the WU Newsletter.