What's Your Definition of a Writer?

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

At one time, even the authors of classic works were not
successful, published writers. I like to think
they had editors who helped their writing...even a little.
Photo | EKHumphrey
I mentioned to a friend the news about an editing client’s forthcoming novel. The friend, who knows what I read for pleasure, asked why I would edit something that wasn’t in a genre that I read on a regular basis. For instance, why edit memoir if I read romance in my free time? (Or vice versa.)

Our discussion roamed through all sorts of topics, but I became passionate about the manuscripts I edit and those authors I edit. And what is the definition of a writer.

I told her that work with a wide range of writers (from academic manuscripts to romance…and everything in between). I don’t have to like everything I read and oftentimes when I start out not liking something, I finish with liking the writing and the author also. Some writing I don’t feel comfortable working in and some writers I don’t feel comfortable working with, but I can generally figure that out when I read a sample of the work…or when I in contact with the writer.

When I edit a writer’s work, I am the stand-in reader with the ability to help the writer make the manuscript better. But why, my friend pressed me, would I feel the need to edit work that “might not be very good by someone who is clearly not a writer?”

Why? Because I am also a writer. (Some days I know I am a better writer than other days.) And everyone needs to start somewhere. When a client approaches me, the novels been written. How many people can say they have written a 150,000-word novel? To me, that person is a writer, even if the writing proves to be a little uneven in the draft stages.

It is my hope that, as a writer, I am able to work with an editor to make my good and not-so-good work sparkle. I may not have landed on the bestseller lists and some family members may see my writing as a hobby, but I still want an editor who can see through my spelling mistakes or transposed words and understand what I’m trying to accomplish, even if I don’t meet someone’s arbitrary definition of what a writer is. An editor can also help to validate us as writers.

So many of us write because we have a story to tell and we pack our words into a multitude of genres. We write because we want to share our stories. I edit to help others tell their stories better and I want an editor I can work with to help me tell my stories better. Don’t you?

Do you work in different genres? Do you have a preferences? Are there some genres you only read during certain times?

Elizabeth King Humphrey, a writer and editor in North Carolina, is celebrating the publication of her Idiot's Guide: Gluten-Free Eating. She wishes all The Muffin readers a Happy New Year filled with lots of written words!


Margo Dill said...

Elizabeth: Congratulations on the publication of the gluten-free eating book. I'm sure it will bring thousands of people important information to improve their lives. Obviously, you are a successful writer!

This subject of what is a writer is an important one, and it brings out the soapbox in me. In my opinion, if you are writing anything for publication or not, you are a writer. If you want to talk about a career writer (someone getting paid) then that's the definition--someone who writes and gets paid. Do we debate a doctor's qualifications--do we make him win awards or become one of the top ten doctors in his area before we call him A DOCTOR? NO--he is a doctor because he has a degree and has a job as a doctor. Same goes for teachers, plumbers, police officers, nurses, and more. There is no debate on whether or not these people are real. Okay, soapbox over.

Writers everywhere UNITE! :)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Elizabeth--Congratulations on the book. Unfortunately (for my butt and my gut), I eat ALL the gluten that the gluten-free folks push to the side. Perhaps I feel sorry for gluten, and don't want it to feel ostracized?

I agree with Margo. We are all writers if we sweat over a phrase or curse over a crappy draft or submit...or not. Some of the best writers I know don't submit very often (much to my dismay).

Thanks for gettin us thinking...

Theresa Loder said...

A writer writes...we must...we write on paper, napkins, slips of paper, anything we can get our hands on...iphone notes, computers, Kindles, ipads, ...you name it...

We want to tell our stories or the stories of others ...we want to share our everything...we want to entertain, inform, or for no particular reason we may write something and never share it...

Passion, inspiration, information or as a business we write because that is who we are...

May you all experience your idea of success as a writer

Take care
Theresa Loder

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