Stuck in the habit
By Elysse James
When my editor is reading my work, I have a tendency to sit behind him, reading over his shoulder and doing some “backseat editing” (I guess you could call it that… kind of like backseat driving).
After copy editing for a few years, and doing amateur editing for years before that, I find it’s very hard to break the habit of editing.
My siblings stopped letting me read their school papers years ago because I would fix grammer, sentence strucure, spelling mistakes. No matter how good the high school essay I can always find one typo or missing comma and that drives them nuts. Friends in college gave me their papers to read for just that reason.
But now that I’m a writer, I find it’s hard to drop the editing side. I miss being able to fix someone else’s work, question their motives and sources and cut for size. I miss being able to mess with the design if I need to, or fixing leading to make a story fit.
My own writing doesn’t get the same attention to detail. I’m too close to it. I can write something and sit on it for a few days, then go back and question my own motives and sentences. But rarely is there time for such critique. Giving up control of your work is difficult to do. I recognize I’m a bit of a control freak, but then so are so many writers who hand over their work with confidence to editors. I fear the editors will miss a mistake, or make something incorrect.
How do writers hand over their works with confidence, even on tight deadline? Will I ever get used to it? And how to make my own writing mistake-free so that I don’t have to fret over what happens to it?
I guess patience and trust will come in time, but for now I’ll be the one standing behind my editor, pointing out mistakes I missed the first time around.