Writing Wing(wo)man

There are many stages in the editing process, and this month, Long Story Short will be fleshing out the reasoning behind the particular services How Novel provides, ordered chronologically with the writing process. Lucky for you, most everything comes along with an illustration or two straight from my geeky (but quietly charming, she said very convincingly) life, especially childhood.

It’s important for writers to find the support that helps their style and process. Some folks plan out everything. Others like the excitement of “winging it.” Some writers take months and years to deliberate over their manuscript, putting it in a proverbial drawer until they can weigh the pros and cons of proposed changes. Others like to keep the momentum going by editing as soon as they’ve received feedback. Hopefully, hearing about the services offered by HNE will be helpful for you as you continue on your writing journey and discern the best fit for your work!


This is the kind of editing that I’m talking about under “Early Stage” over on the services page.

Here’s a pair of useless Kate-facts to start us off:

This is the closest I ever got to playing basketball. Yes, this is backyard baseball, not basketball. My point exactly.

The closest I ever came to playing basketball. (Yes, I am aware this is backyard baseball. My point exactly.)

  1.  I’m fairly tall (a height I rocketed towards rather early in my younger years). I was always being asked if I played basketball. I did not. I had a solid two minutes in fifth grade that I considered trying out for the school’s basketball team, but then I remembered that I was in a community where basketball was considered a close third to cleanliness and godliness. I’m pretty sure that most kids went to basketball camp about two weeks after birth. I was not one of them, barely knew the rules of the game, and by the time I was eleven I decided I was hopeless. Even gym class games of HORSE were embarrassing.
  2. I started playing violin when I was five and took lessons all the way through high school graduation. In fact, because I started so early, I went on to learn flute, horn, and just a teensy bit of trumpet, as well as singing whenever possible. I was/am a proud marching band geek (drum majors unite!), and one of my biggest regrets is not owning my own mellophone. While violin didn’t continue on to be my life’s passion and I’m no musical gift to the world, I can still play Go Tell Aunt Rody with a certain degree of flair.

The difference between my non-existent sports career and my musical education is that one was something that I didn’t care much about and hence didn’t seek out anyone to help me strengthen my abilities, and the other was an interest that had a great support system attached.

During the early stages, an editor is an author’s wingman, there to provide support when navigating tricky flying conditions and extra firepower in combat situations – uh, I mean, plot lines and character development. An editor is (or at least, should be) part of a writer’s support system, and early (or big picture) editing, is like having a coach along with you during the exciting and grueling parts of writing. Sometimes it helps to have someone with whom to storyboard, set expectations, help maintain the progress toward a certain goal, and always read, read, read. Working with an editor early in the game can make a solitary process a little less convoluted or lonely by having someone in the trenches to ask questions, explore possibilities, and give initial impressions. All of the official calls ultimately remain the author’s, but that author has double the options when puzzling out the potential sticking points by having another individual around to weigh them too. The editor is like my violin teacher helping teenage me understand why I need to play a passage in fourth position instead of merely scratching out the tune in first. Or like my parents listening to all of the less than stellar practice sessions and encouraging me to continue anyway. Or, for those who did have the interest in basketball, like a coach identifying the weak points in a player’s game and offering a way to improve.

I’ve edited a number of novels about which the author has said, “something doesn’t feel right, but I’m not sure what it is” or “something’s missing; can you tell?” I’ve also had an author ask, “I’m thinking of doing _____ in my book. Can I get away with that?” Sometimes it’s easier to face those dilemmas when planning and during the initial composing as opposed to the daunting task of sifting through the tens of thousands of words in a finished manuscript, because we can sure bet there will be more questions and ideas that come along that we’ll want to focus on instead!

Flying solo makes a great photo but can be rough when writing.

Flying solo makes a great photo but can be rough when writing.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m writing, I have a heck of a time shutting off my internal editor. For some folks, having a dedicated editor ready to help catch things or think of ideas along the way allows that important but usurping internal editor to sit back and wait its turn. Early editing is a customizable experience that’s based on an individual’s needs and goals. Whether or not you choose to hire an editor, making sure you’ve got a writing wingman in your support team can enhance your accountability and creativity.

Who’s your wingman? Let’s celebrate the person who’s on your six.

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