But leave me now to my confuzzlement, and click down below the break to read Scott "InquisitorM" Mence's thoughts on editing and otherwise assisting others with their creative writing--why to do it, and what benefits it reaps for not only the editee, but the editor as well.
You know the question. It’s there on every RCL interview, and before that, every ’Vault interview.
Why do you write?
The answers are as many and varied as the writers interviewed, of course, but as time goes by I wonder if it hides another question that seems ever more fitting: why do I edit? When I say edit, I mean acting as an editor for others, and the answer to that question bears some consideration.
There are a couple of things that sparked this train of thought—my recent editing time with The Descendant and Pascoite’s advice for new writers in his recent interview being major ones—but the bulk of it has to come from the mental gymnastics that come hand in hand with thinking of myself as actually being good at something. It’s not a feeling I’m either terribly comfortable or familiar with, and yet, when I edit for others, I can’t help but come face to face with what I can do. More importantly, I come face to face with what I can’t.
That’s what I want to put out there.
Why edit at all?
Because if you want to be the best writer you can, then you will probably want to be the best editor you can, too. Never do I work harder to research an uncertain area of grammar, or spend longer selecting the best words to explain a gut feeling than when I am editing for another author. For me, it isn’t enough to say that I don’t like it or it’s wrong: I have to be able to explain why and offer suggestions. You don’t truly know how well you understand a rule or principle until you try explaining it to someone who definitely doesn’t. Editing has gone a long way towards showing me how much I don’t understand. One by one I have scoured those deficits in my knowledge, and each time I have become more confident and competent as a writer.
It’s not about knowing everything: it’s about knowing that nothing is beyond you if you put in the time to learn. It’s also about finding new ways to hone your skills. Virtually every list of writing ‘rules’ says to just write, but I’d say that it’s more about being immersed in writing as a concept.
Read. Write. Edit. That’s my holy trinity.
The thing that finally urged me to speak out on the matter is the updates about the changes at Equestria Daily. I’m sure most of you will know already, but the pre-readers will no longer be giving out any advice with their rejections. Not as standard, anyway. This leads me to wonder what is going to happen to all those writers who—I agree unfairly—depended on pre-reader feedback to assess their stories and improve. It’s not like reviewing and editing services haven’t been consistently available, but I was there once and I remember it well. Yet I have to admit that I’ve been damned lucky to have the services of several pretty classy writers and reviews, with Chris and Pascoite undoubtedly being at the forefront.
But was it luck? Probably not.
The secret is a simple one: I asked [Never underestimate the power of a polite request for assistance, even if it is out of the blue; that's how I met Mr. M in the first place! -Chris]. Add to that being earnest, respectful, and putting effort in to make use of their time, and I think I can file it away as something I have earned, in part.
Will those now-bereft-of-feedback authors ask? Probably not. Not without some prodding, at least.
I know a lot of the folk who come by here already do editing and review work, but for those that don’t, now might be a really good time to find someone lower down the totem pole to lend a hand to. I also know than many in that category will likely think that they don’t have the skills to help, or simply aren’t erudite enough—it’s something I’ve already heard a lot of people reference in particularly oblique and defensive ways. If that’s what you just thought, then that’s exactly why you should give it a go. Working on someone else’s prose is a completely different experience to working on your own and adds many new systems and processes to your skillset.
Right now there is someone out there with less of an idea of what to do that you. I guarantee it. Helping them is helping you, and you want to help you, don’t you?
I said recently that I’m not a fan of false modesty and that’s true. So why do I edit? Because I wouldn’t have gone from zero to blithely assuming my work will pass EqD’s muster in just two years if I hadn’t. It’s not arrogance when it’s stacked on a few thousand hours of practice, so read, write, and edit. When you don’t have work of your own on the go, edit someone else’s until commas and clauses and colons rearrange themselves in front of your eyes like code in the matrix.
Oh, yeah, and apparently it’s a nice thing to do.
Whatever. Lead by example. Lead by excellence.
-Scott ‘Inquisitor’ Mence
P.S. The Descendant’s fic, Highball, should be out by the time you read this. Go read it. It’s one of very few stories I’d give five stars to. I cried. Seriously.