Beginning a writing career was one of the best dreams I've had the opportunity to fulfill. I wake up every morning ready to begin again; whether I'm writing, editing, or plotting, there's always a story--or five--waiting to be written. But I'll share a secret--writing can be brutal!
Why then do I say it's brutal? Say it with me--Expectations.
I'm not talking about reader, editor, or publisher expectations; I'm referring to our own expectations. When I wrote and published my first book, of course I wanted to write a great story, but it was my first. I had yet to set a bar because I didn't know what that bar would be, or what I was capable of doing. The second book came immediately after the first, so I was still riding the wave of excitement. By the time the third book came out, I had a better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and believe me when I say it's not always easy to admit, and it's even more difficult to correct bad writing habits.
As I've mentioned before, my editor is a great teacher. She shares rules that I may be overlooking. She doesn't tell me I'm doing something wrong; instead she tells me about the rule, highlights words or sections, and then allows me to make the decision. The upside to this is that I learn something new. The downside is that I have to actually think and then make a decision. But that's not all. The thinking about the rule leads me to thinking about other things, which leads me to think about potential plot holes, weak paragraphs, and asking myself "am I using too much detail, or not enough?" The thinking does not end! Scary thought, but I'm not exaggerating.
What else goes along with all that thinking? Well, those pesky expectations begin to emerge, and not slowly either. Once I broke the dam, a flood of doubts surfaced. I now knew what I was capable of doing, but I had no idea how to get there.
I believe the most important goal for an author is to make each new book better than the last. Believe me, it's not that easy, and this is where "harder" happens. We've raised our own bar, we've written a book that in all actuality could be better than the last, but we don't believe it because we set the bar so high that there's no way to see over it, jump over it, throw a rope to the other side and climb over it.
This is where "easier" happens. A good editor is honest, and they're going to tell you what's right and what's wrong with your book. A great editor will go one step further and present their own set of expectations. After a few books, they also know what you're capable of doing, but they won't be nearly as hard on you as you are on yourself. The "easier" part is knowing that you can work toward those lofty goals, but you don't have to beat the keyboard over your head when you've made a mistake. Writing is fun, at least it's supposed to be, and I'd rather have fun than have a headache.
My advice is to share your expectations with your editor. The writing and magic is still up to you, but if your editor knows your goals, they'll work with you. If you want your editor to push you to do better--tell them! If you want them to pull back and give you a little time to figure out what they already know--tell them! If you want to surpass yourself, but have no clue how to get there--tell your editor! It won't be their job to make it happen, but it will make the journey much easier knowing you're not in it alone.
Don't leave room for doubt, only room for improvement.
Note: My editor does not edit the 'Working with an Editor' posts. I accept full responsibility for any errors.