Learned something about myself

Scary thought, isn’t it?

Sunday, not long after I posted here, a writing group buddy messaged me with a favor. First, I’ve met this person 4 times (group meets only) and traded casual holiday greetings. His very existence was unknown to me until  3 months ago.

His favor?

“Can you look over the intro and first chapter of the book I’m writing?”

My inside voice begged to say no and cowered in fear. My outside voice had other plans: “Sure. Email it to me and I’ll get it back to you tonight.”


Not even a minute later…there’s his file. Before reading through, I checked the pages – 4. 4 supposedly revised pages. Now, keep in mind I’m not a professional editor, despise editing in general and had absolutely NO right to give any sort of editing advice to this kid (he’s, like, 20). That’s what I was thinking until I starting reading. 6 hours and 3 Tylenol later, I emailed it back to him.

I’ve had 3 days to reflect on this experience and his writing skills and my thoughts haven’t changed. I went at those pages with the same ferocity I do with my own. And with me being my own worst critic, that’s pretty nightmarish. At several points I found myself just laughing uncontrollably (maniacally, even) and wondered why…why…would he show this to anyone. Ever. I wanted to bypass all the work that goes into editing and just stamp it with “Um, no.” But, I persevered. I went line-by-line to change word order, handled punctuation, used different colors for different edits, put in comments/suggestions and somehow managed to not go blind.

To be fair, he’s highly creative. And during our post-edit conversation he confessed that he works “backwards” when he writes. In reality he doesn’t, but tomaytoes-tomahtoes. He built his imaginary underwater world and all its inhabitants (of whom I met 2), created an elaborate back story and general did it right. That is, until his revised copy didn’t resemble anything close to being presentable.  Were I a real editor, those pages would’ve been tossed. And I mean that in all sincerity. What was given to me was the fleshing out of a story, not the introduction and first chapter of a manuscript. I actually wanted a drink. And a Xanax.

He promised to send the completed story to me when it was finished.


So what did I learn about myself?

I am not cut out for editing (pun not intended). I will never be an editor. Ever.


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2 Responses to Learned something about myself

  1. Nina Kaytel says:

    I read for a young kid recently. I’d say he was about 16. It took nine hours and three pots of coffee to read through the pages then to detail edit with all the links and advice I could find. I really wanted to help him, I loved his premise, but the writing needed so much work. I thought of all the wonderful betas I had who were so patience with me. I emailed back, I waited and waited ——- three months later he vanished like a fart in the wind. Anger aside, I learned more helping him then I have ever learned through writing books.

    • jmlibby says:

      Thats how I feel now, having really looked at the experience. It’s funny, we hear great advice from every facet of the writing business but we dont truly learn until we’re put in certain situations. Thank you for coming by, Nina, and sharing 🙂

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