I routinely receive inquiries about my editing services from writers who are just about ready to hit the “publish” button, and writers who have a very rough draft and need to get it to the next level. What I’ve noticed is that most of these writers have a pretty vague idea about what they’re looking for in an editor. They’re unsure about pricing, expectations, and what they need to do to be part of the process.
I’ve been reading a book on modern Russian history, covering the years 1917 until the present. I had known that writers in the Soviet Union functioned under severe repression, but I hadn’t known how extreme it really was or that it lasted for almost six decades. The writers and intellectuals of this time used a phrase amongst themselves, “writing for the desk drawer,” to describe the common knowledge that it was useless to try to publish one’s work because any writer with a dissident view would be censored, if not punished. “Writing for the desk drawer” hit home for me big time, because I know so many writers today—in free countries—who are still carrying on the practice.
One of the first things a writer learns is about the power—and the challenge—of the rewrite. For those writers who assume that everything Ernest Hemingway wrote flowed perfectly out of his pen on the very first try, the illusion is shattered. The more experience a writer gains, the more they know that rewriting is part of the process for all writers. But that doesn’t mean that rewrites still aren’t confusing, overwhelming, or just plain difficult. They most definitely can be all of those things. What can really be helpful is for writers to back up, look at a map, and make sure they’re not going in the wrong direction.