One of the hardest things for me to grasp is that writing, in my experience, is not seen as a viable talent or a gift which needs refining. You see it in the creative world and you see it in the professional/corporate world. Everywhere. And I’ve dabbled in just about all of it: technical writing, poetry, dialogue, most recently copywriting.
One of the saddest moments I had in my experience as a technical writer was spending many hours rewriting an online training manual. I took a lot of the language which was fairly conversational and translated it into more palatable verbiage for the reader and a person new to an unknown process. I left the job and came back a year later to find that my manual had been edited, by many, with no checks. Inconsistencies in phrasing and wording abounded and I just looked away. Anyone can do it, right?
For an example of good vs. bad technical writing, just think about every piece of furniture you’ve tried to assemble on your own. How difficult was it? Did the instructions help or hinder you? Technical writing is important. Not everyone can do it well or effectively. But if it’s not seen as a viable skill, anyone can do it, right? And that’s when the confusion begins.
The same goes for creative writing. Someone doesn’t just come out the gate a Hemingway or a Ishiguro. Not even Hemingway or Ishiguro. It takes years of honing and practicing and (almost always) relying on the advice of others to better your craft. Molly McCowan of Inkbot Editing has a great post where she talks about the importance of an editor in writing and relying on the advice of others. There seems to be a common misconception that great writing just is. It springs up out of nowhere, BAM. New York Times Bestseller and long-lasting masterpiece.
My favorite part of the process has always been revision. To me, the first draft is that lumpy pile of clay and I don’t even know where to start or what shape it really is by the time I’ve written it. In revision, however, I start to see the true form and I feel most inspired. That’s what editors are here for, to feed you that inspiration and cut out that shape you’re trying to find, Mold your treasured words before you put them out into the world.
(featured image by Aaron Burden)
If you look at the top righthand corner of the page you’ll see a new tab marked EDITORIAL SERVICES. If you’re a budding writer or someone who’s been writing for a while and needs some editing… I can help!
Lucky for you, that happens to be my specialty. I can assist in making sure your grammar is top-notch, your story has flow, and even help you learn how to format a script properly. Please, visit my services page if you’re interested in learning more. Cost will vary depending on the project, but it’s well worth it if you’re looking to put out the best possible product in a competitive market.
Much like my rant on adjectives, similes are another major “writerly” Pet Peeve of mine. Good writers can get away with using them. Books get published all the time with terrible, terrible uses of similes. I even read a Stephen King novel once that had similes for DAYS (granted, it was probably ghost written and maybe this was an intentional stylistic choice, who knows), BUT I would argue that great writers learn how to work without them and/or use them in moderation.
What is a simile? It is as simple as using one thing to describe another: Her bosom heaved heavily like a whale coming up for air after a long and lengthy dive into the depths of the ocean. Bosom = Whale. Done. There’s your comparison! Why do I hate this?
- It lacks creativity. Half the time you can take out the “like” AND the bald-faced comparison by rephrasing the sentence to make it sound as though you’re not spoon-feeding your reader an analogy. IE: Her bosom heaved, she was coming up for air after a deep dive.
- Similes assume the audience is kind of stupid. Believe me, they’re not. They’ll know by the context of the sentence that she wasn’t actually coming up from a literal dive, if you must needs use a simile.
- A simile is hardly ever necessary. You can describe the thing as the very thing it is and get away with conveying the message successfully: She took a deep breath and felt her chest rise and fall. < Why is that so terrible to so many writers? Must we always jump over the hurdles of not-so-fancy words to compose a simple sentence?
This came up as a post-worthy topic because I’m currently 1 of three 3 lovely ladies (emphasis on the “lovely”) editing a literary journal at my university and I finally sat myself down with a glass of wine to delve into reading some of the prose submissions. I’m not even going to touch the poetry right now. You can say I’ve made a bit of a career out of reading slush piles for free.
Slave labor, really.
Maybe someday I’ll actually get paid for it. Until then, there’s always cups upon cups of tea to keep me relaxed as I read the third simile in one paragraph because the author could not think of a better way to describe something than by, once again, comparing it to something else.
Have I used similes? Yes, I’m pretty sure I used the “whale” one in an essay in 6th grade. My parents were very impressed. But, I really feel this is something most writers should grow out of as you hone your writing and fine-tune it. Unless your pinnacle of success is dime-store novels. Again, people who write like this do get published, but I don’t think they’ll go down in the annals of history as the writers who changed the face of the writing world. Read the Great Writers. They do not do this and if they do, they’re an advanced version of this trope, a super-simile. Prove me wrong. Come at me, bro.