Thursday, December 18, 2008

Beware the Danger of Writer's Blindness


Writer's Blindness is a dangerous threat to your credibility as a writer, as well as to your created work. Don't take it lightly. Protect yourself from this scourge by hiring a good editor. Don't believe me? Read on for my own heart wrenching tale of writer's blindness.

I am a book publisher and professional editor, a very good editor I've been told. I am also a writer, having written several short stories, two novel length manuscripts and four plays, paying my dues to the writing muses by collecting over 80 rejection letters in 15 years. You'd think I'd be able to write well without much help, but that's not the case. Instead, I suffer from the worst writer's blindness anyone could have.

Writer's blindness occurs after you've immersed yourself in a writing project for so long you become blinded to the flaws of your own writing. Every writer has it a little bit because we write the way we hear the story in our heads. Unfortunately, not every reader will get what we intended, which is why we all need editors to make our inner voices understandable to the outside world.

Here is an example of when writer's blindness struck me; a page from What You Need to Know to Be a Pro, which I sent to Jane for editing.

(from - What You Need to Know to Be a Pro. early draft, before revisions)

The production manager oversees the process. He or she decides how the printing will bedone and who will do it. Send the manuscript overseas? Use print-on-demand? Will the print run be large enough to use the standard, off-set, printing process (not digital)? Each book requires different decisions based on the number of pages, the type of paper, whether it is to be published in hardcover or paper-back, the book’s dimensions, the cost of paper, shipping costs, and changing technology.
Everyone wants the book done quickly and the production manager is under intense
pressure to make that happen. Sometimes the pressure is due to outside forces, such as when there was an industry-wide paper shortage while the last Harry Potter book was being printed because practically every sheet of paper available was being used to print Harry Potter books! That delayed other books from being printed, which created a backlog for every Production Department in the book industry. A publishing company often produces many books at a time and it's up to the production department to keep all of those different production schedules organized. A delay in any part of the process, from the author becoming ill to the designer being unable (or unwilling!) to make the changes needed to please the marketing department,will create a delay in production. Those delays can cost the press money
.

I thought this was great. Really brilliant writing! I sent it off to Jane feeling like I was DONE.

She sent it back three weeks later, every page COVERED with red marks and notes. Here's the list for just this one page:

Formatted: Highlight
Formatted: No underline
Formatted: Highlight
Deleted: They
Comment [jm15]: Sidenote: more about this in Chapter XX
Deleted: hould they s
Deleted: e
Deleted: P
Deleted: D
Deleted: used
Deleted: ,
Deleted: of the book
Deleted: like
Deleted:
Deleted: the
Deleted: department
Comment [jm16]: SUBHEAD
Comment [jm17]: Bold or itals?

That was just ONE PAGE out of 130 pages. As I looked at her notes throughout the manuscript, I cringed at the typos, misspellings, improper use of commas, confusing sentences and run-ons. I honestly had been incapable of seeing ANYTHING wrong; my manuscript had looked PERFECT.

I spent four weeks revising the manuscript, my blinders suddenly removed by a flash of insight from my editor, Jane. She had set her hands upon my head and commanded, "See!" and in that moment I saw my writing for the first time. I made all the corrections she suggested and triple checked that my sentences were clear. This time when I got the manuscript back, there were only a few notes from Jane, but overall she was pleased. "You did a great job with this revision."

Ask any writer and they will tell you their own tale of when they were struck stupid by writer's blindness. If it can happen to Stephen King and Alice Munroe, it can happen to you. Protect yourself. Get an editor.

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