Trust Your Editor


Quick Tip Tuesday

By R.S. Belcher

A few years back, I was hired by a business magazine to write a cover story on the growth of the NASCAR industry in Virginia and some of the spin-off technologies and businesses that the growth had spurred across the Commonwealth.

I ran all over and interviewed a bunch of folks, including NASA engineers and the governor of Virginia, and then gathered all my notes and recordings and pictures together and then sat down and wrote my 6000-word article.

My editor for the job, a very nice fellow, sent me back his edits and revisions to the article with no comments, just lots and lots and red. I got pissed. He was not just correcting errors in grammar, style and usage, he was moving around information, asking for clarifications of what exactly I meant by certain words. He never replaced his words with mine, he never criticized my choices, he simply completely altered the material I gave him into a new format.

Like I said, I was pissed. I had been doing this job of writing and getting paid for it for a long time, years. I paid bills, mine and my family’s bills, on my words, and I thought, after busting my hump on this piece that it was one of the best journalism pieces I had written.

The first chicken McNugget of “wisdom” I’ll throw out here, is whatever you write, if you expect to get paid for it, expect to deal with criticism…from all corners. You have to learn how to deal with that anger or it will eat you up like acid, or worse, it will influence how you write. It will affect how fearless you get in your writing, what you do, how you say it, and what you decide to not say. If you can’t handle that, pack it in, take up alpaca herding or something, ’cause you will be a bitter, miserable, and poor writer (in more ways than one).

So, I took a few days, because my deadline allowed me to, and did nothing in regards to the article. I did not email this editor and tell him exactly what I thought of his revisions, and where he could stuff them. I did not quit in a funk, or bad-mouth the guy and his publication in social media. In other words, I didn’t shoot my career in the face with a bazooka. I raged in private, I calmed the hell down, and I got back to work.

I did every single thing this editor had wanted me to do; when all was said and done, when all the ego, and emotional sturm und drang was over, it was a better piece, a better creation of my writing, my words. My editor was right, and he was damn good at his job. The moral of this story is trust your editor.

Now, I’m not saying trust every editor, I’m saying trust your editor.

Your editor will be the one you work with who has a passion for your work, who is excited about bringing out the best in you, as a writer, and developing the best in your work. Your editor will treat you like a professional and expect the same from you. It’s that basis of respect and enthusiasm that can make a good writer and good editor so formidable a team, and make wiring for a living such a pleasure.

There will always be times, even with a great editor, your editor, that you will disagree and decide to go your own way. The best editors will respect that choice, even if they don’t agree with it, and they usually understand your choice, or at least try to. That too is part of what makes them good at their job.

The majority of the editors I’ve had the pleasure of working with, including all the ones I’ve worked with since I started writing fiction full-time, made me better at what I do and moved my skills and my career forward and made me prouder of the work I present as my final product.

Some editors may be very good at what they do and how they do it, but may not be a good fit for your style, and writing voice. In other words, they are not your editor. Usually, a good editor will sense that poor fit as much as you do and the best ones will work with you to find an editor that will be a good fit.

I’ve worked with very few editors in my journalism days—literally one or two—that I ended up not trusting. They did not make me a better writer, they did not profit from our association, and neither did I. I did gain experience from those encounters, though. Just as good writing, along with persistence, and a number of other professional skills increases your likelihood of success, the same is true of good editing. Good editors rise to the level of their skills and capabilities, and that means they tend to be more successful.
Trust is something that has to be earned. Finding someone you can trust can sometimes be a difficult proposition. When you do find them, they can have a remarkable and enriching impact on you, and your life.

R. S. (Rod) Belcher is an award-winning newspaper and magazine editor and reporter. Rod has been a private investigator, a DJ, a comic book store owner and has degrees in criminal law, psychology and justice, and risk administration from Virginia Commonwealth University. He’s done Masters work in Forensic Science at The George Washington University and worked with the Occult Crime Taskforce for the Virginia General Assembly.
The Grand Prize winner of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Anthology contest, Rod’s short story “Orphans” was published in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 9 published by Simon and Schuster in 2006. It was his first professional fiction sale.
Rod’s first novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, was published by Tor Books in 2013. The sequel, The Shotgun Arcana, was published in 2014 and the third book in the Golgotha series—The Queen of Swords is currently in production. His novel, Nightwise, was released in August, 2015, and his latest book, The Brotherhood of the Wheel, was published by Tor in March of 2016. Sequels to both of those books are forthcoming.
He lives in Roanoke Virginia with his children, Jonathan and Emily.

Contact Rod at:

Facebook: Author RS Belcher

Twitter: @AuthorRsBelcher

A press conference at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference in Roanoke, Va announces its new affiliation with Curio, a Hilton Worldwide brand that features more "boutique" hotels.  Hilton President and C.E.O. Christopher J. Nassetta, Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands, PhD, Dianna Vaughan, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Curio, Roanoke Mayor David Bowers and  General Manager of The Hotel Roanoke Gary Walton speak at the event. The Hotel Roanoke is co-owned by Virginia Tech and The City of Roanoke. (David Hungate for The Hotel Roanoke)



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