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About Theresa Nichols Schuster

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Theresa Nichols Schuster is author of "Brittle Silver" and "We Are the Warriors" a 2015 USA Regional Excellence Book Award Finalist. She currently lives in southwest Montana where she appreciates the wonders of nature, family, friends, a bit of pottery.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Edit

Also better titled, "Keeping, cajoling, bribing or in any other ways ensnarling the skills of reliable editors or proof readers..."

To begin with, I don't have all the answers to this dilemma. Sometimes a good editor for a writing project is a gift, just a surprise delight in an on-going writing process.

Most of our family members and friends either feel unqualified to critique our work, which may be true; live in fear of offending by their responses or thoughts, which may also be true or don't have the time and energy to devote to a quality edit, alas, this also may be true.

Sometimes it is a challenge to get anyone to read our budding projects, much less provide constructive criticism.

I have had the luck or privilege of a husband who enjoys proofing and editing writing. However, I have noticed that after long, repeated edits, he loses his fine eye for detail. He also will not give broad suggestions or observations about my work, assumedly because he realizes he has to live with me!

My daughter, a writer herself and recently completing her Master's in English, and her husband, have been great editors and encouragers in my writing process. So too, I have offered my editing and proofing as my daughter explores and creates her own literary works. I have learned not to abuse their generosity with too frequent of requests for material editing.

My current novel, with already five to ten major edits behind it and maybe one or two more to go, was a product of varieties of inputs. Several years ago, my daughter was my first major reader. She gave me feedback primarily on character development and some plot and process issues.

After a few major rewrites, I was fortunate to have a cousin of mine, a talented writer, high school librarian of many years and soon to be completed MFA, provide a wonderful, detailed edit of my novel. She was able to catch my repetitious poor writing habits and suggest some creative literary tools to improve on my presentation. I am very indebted to her willingness to share substantial time and effort in improving my writing ability.

In the process of editing, Niki taught me a simple but helpful way to read another author's work and give feedback. She suggested that when we review a work, we observe what we liked, what we noticed and what we wondered about as we read. This type of reflection and subsequent sharing of our insights or questions gives power and process to the author. One then can share positive strengths, incongruities and questions about plot or characters with the writer, while not taking away their creative energy or ability to choose plot and styles.

One book my cousin suggested was Ursula K. Le Guin's, Steering the Craft:  Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or Mutinous Crew. This is a delightful reflection on storytelling and methods to improve one's writing. Although I typically don't enjoy writing exercises, some of these were fun and creative.

I also have received helpful suggestions during sessions with literary agents at writers' conferences. Their expert, quick observations about story and plot lines, character development or even the sometimes simple questions about the choice of title, have been very helpful in the process of writing my novel.

Some people are privileged to be part of a writer's group that provides support and feedback on writing projects. These types of groups can be very helpful. Sometimes they may be "closed" groups, only allowing members that match their "level" of writing, i.e. published vs. unpublished. A writer's group is useful when it matches the needs and personality of an individual writer.

The rare opportunity when a literary professional reads our work and gives constructive feedback can be a great asset. It may be couched in the "rejection" notice, but yet be valuable information to our continued writing, whether or not we entirely agree with the observations. Or even rarer, one can be given the privilege of working with literary professionals as their work moves towards publication.

Even though there are for-hire editors, most new writers cannot afford the investment and continue to work through family, acquaintances and writer's groups. There may come a time when the investment in a good "unrelated" editor may be timely and appropriate. It would then be imperative to investigate information about these editors, their skills, history and fees.

Wherever your writing is taking you, if even mainly for your own self-expression...enjoy the process, the freedom, the deep creativity... and may a few good readers, editors and proofers grace your journey, to the measure that you need...