true in the treetops, true on the ground

Editor (brandishes a few sheets of paper): This story is great, You should write like this all the time.

Writer: Why, thank you. (looks at the sheets of paper more closely) But… I didn’t write that.

Editor: I know you didn’t. I wrote it. I said this is how you should write.

This was from many years ago, from the comic strip Shoe. The two characters were journalists, not fiction writers (and they were birds), but this has always stuck in my mind when giving (and getting) feedback.

It’s all to easy, when giving feedback, to fall into this approach: “You should have written this more the way I would have written it.”

I lived, very briefly, with someone else who wrote, and we had this comic strip up on our refrigerator. We referred to it quite often.

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2 Responses to true in the treetops, true on the ground

  1. Maggie says:

    That is the challenge of being an editor: letting the author have his/her voice and not trying to take over.

    • Which is probably why the best editors are not writers — it’s a different skill set, like record producers and musicians.

      This is important with beta reading also — I’ve been doing a big beta reading project recently, and I’ve tried (probably not entirely successfully) to avoid “Hey, there’s a better way to write this (which just happens to be my way).”

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