Penny, my editor, often urges me to cut sentences, paragraphs, even entire pieces that I really like. More often than not, I follow her advice.
It’s painful, but it’s part of the writer/editor relationship. I’ve grown to trust her insight and keen editorial eye. I’ve also had to work to develop a degree of humility that I believe is vital to my growth as a writer. Not everything that I write is jewel-like prose and unfettered genius. Sometimes, more often than I like, what I write isn’t clear, complete, or well thought out. But with the help of a trusted editor I’m able to write and think and eventually produce better work.
The best things that I’ve published here have come from times when Penny and I have wrestled over what I’m trying to say and how I’m saying it. This process, the road of criticism and thought and rewriting, is how I’m developing a more sure and powerful writing voice.
And I’m convinced that it’s critical for all writers.
Last week Penny advised me to cut two paragraphs from a piece. They were, in my opinion, some very interesting stuff. But I trust her, so I read it again with her advice in mind—and cut them out. I saved them to a running document with other such items. Perhaps someday you’ll see them here, but in another form or context.
If you want to develop as a writer you’ll need an editorial partner. Perhaps you can partner with another writer and edit each other’s work. But find one you can trust and then think hard about what they have to say. It’s not just about grammar, spelling, and punctuation. That’s the easy stuff. Listen them to them about the things that make your work clear, readable, and effective.
Yes, you love what you’ve written, but listen, sacrifice the jewels (or store them for later). You’ll be a better writer if you do.
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