Monday, May 5, 2014

Hand Beneath the Pump

If you have seen or read "The Miracle Worker," you know that there is a moment when Annie Sullivan is trying to teach Helen Keller that the signs she keeps making in her hands mean something. As they stand beside the pump, and Annie runs water into Helen's hand, wearily signing "water"over and over, suddenly--a lightbulb goes off in Helen's head, and she makes the connection that has been eluding her all along.

Why am I bringing it up? I had one of these "watershed moments" the other day about my writing, and I think it is worth sharing.

My husband refuses to critique anything I write. He says I can't take criticism, and I have spent more than ten years arguing that I can take constructive criticism, that I am getting better at accepting edits all the time...but I have been wrong. If anyone suggests something I don't agree with in their edits, I argue or justify, or ignore it. I can be a terrible editing subject.

As I was in tears over an edit I thought was asking way too much by way of rewrites, my husband said quietly, "You know why the QA department loves me?" (He's a computer programmer.) "Because I know they are trying to make my code the best it can be; that I might have missed something that would make it better; and I listen to what they have to say."

I thought about what he was saying. Really thought about it. And, for the first time, the analogy made sense to me. Editors are a writer's QA department. They see things we might not. They understand things we don't. We need to listen to them. Without whining about it. :) I made the changes they were asking for...and you know what...they were right. It was a stronger story for them.

(Okay, I may be a little self-serving, as I am about to go into editor Don't forget about our new Steampunk anthology, now open for submissions.)

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