I hired someone I did not know. It had to be someone I did not know because I felt like all the people I did know were being “easy” on me. I needed a pro. I needed someone who wasn’t going to shred my emotions although shredding the writing, if that was required was okay, and I needed someone who absolutely got the book connection and understood the kind of writing I’d intended to do.
I was extremely lucky. I found someone. This person, like me, has been a technical writer. They’ve also edited anthologies. They’re also a science fiction person. I’ve never met them, didn’t know them and didn’t know they existed. The recent insanity about the Hugo awards (don’t get me started on it, please!) caused me to read a lot of people in the science fiction field and a lot of people out of it. Somehow, some way, through a link from a link from a post, I wound up at this person’s blog.
Educated, thoughtful, and the opinions were superbly expressed. I was *impressed*. Long ago and far away, I had an ambition as a technical writer. It was to make my writing so clear, so consistent that the reader forgot they were reading. I did that with this blog. Intrigued, I read more. I researched them on facebook and elsewhere. We have a few mutual friends, including some people who suffer no fools and have high standards. Huh. I’d never heard of or met this person. I haven’t met a lot of people. I haven’t heard of a lot of people, but this person and I share a chunk of FB friends where I would expect to have met or have heard about them, several times — and I hadn’t.
More research indicated they freelanced. I’ve found an editor who will help me finish the memoir, the way I want it to be. I am both amazed and grateful!
I just realized that I promised something in the title and didn’t deliver it. What did I learn? I learned a few things. One, every now and then the universe is really, really good to you. Two, that I’d been beating myself up because I don’t write in a literary style. Years ago and miles away, that choice was deliberate. I’d forgotten that, and I’d just been at an academic conference. I’m not an academic, in fact I’m not highly educated — by choice. Writing doesn’t have to be literary/academic to be exceedingly good — go read some Mark Twain. And highly educated writing doesn’t have to be literary in style to be good either — go read a speech or two of Churchill’s! (My two writing gods.)
I’d forgotten that I love Twain and Churchill’s writing because although both men were superb writers, they didn’t need multisyllabic words, complex constructions, and obscure references to grab your heart out of your chest with their words. They did it with simple language, superb mastery and with an uncanny knowledge of human beings.
After that workshop and seeing my academic relative 3 times in the same two weeks, I got caught up, again, in the idea that I had to be “educated” and write “literarily.” I can’t. I hate that kind of writing, it is like pulling my teeth out through the back of my skull when I try.
So, I learned two things: 1) I really should avoid my family at almost all costs, although I won’t. and 2)A good editor is worth their weight in gold if you’re a writer. All writers need to be reminded of what they do well and what needs work. And a good editor can make that happen.