Monday, December 10, 2012

The author: Dane F. Baylis

After the Lightning Strikes!

Recently I had a conversation with a younger writer who related that he much preferred the creative heat of the first draft to the work of editing. He was churning out upwards of 40,000 words a month but felt it was too much of a distraction to have to stem the creative tsunami in order to polish and tweak those words into the best presentation he was capable of. It brought to mind another conversation I had with him years ago when he told me that it should be up to the editors where he sent his manuscripts to handle the mechanics. Wasn't that what they were paid to do?

I will admit that I have been blessed along the way with editors who were willing to work with me but I never found one who wanted to work for me unless it was going to be in a professional relationship where I was paying for the privilege of not having to do my own heavy lifting. Those who had given me a chance did so because I was able to show them that I had indeed invested time in a product and that, when it came to what I was trying to interest them in, the time had been taken to familiarize myself with their needs. When I had done my share they could be most helpful in helping me better shape my craft and understand that it wasn't me I was writing for but their audience and readers.

Over time the work that ensued after the first surge of writing became something less onerous. Sure I could sit down and bang out an idea with a fair amount of speed and facility, but that was just the beginning. Once the romance of being some type of Kerouac knock off filling a roll of teletype paper with unpaginated, unpunctuated stream of consciousness had faded I realized that those earlier editors had done me a tremendous service, by showing me that the idea was rarely in the initial harvest. The story and an authentic voice to tell it in was the result of winnowing away the chaff. After I knew what it was my characters were going to do I had the honor of truly meeting with them and letting them tell their stories. I sat on the side and took down their words and ideas, I watched how they moved through the scenes, I saw where it was that their way of living could only be expressed by paring away the telling and recording the showing.

So, if you're thinking that it's your job to produce the art and  someone else's to shape the raw clay of an uncrafted work, you may discover the same thing my young friend has. There are a lot of rough manuscripts on writer's shelves that rarely get past the point of a second or third draft and never see publication. It's the job of the editor to assist you in refining what you have already taken the time to create, craft and cultivate, so that you, as a team, can best reach the reading audience.

Keep writing!

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