Miss Independent

There’s a commercial airing right now to promote an upcoming dating show, which coins its star as an independent woman. Now, mind you, she’s relying on a television series to find her a husband FOR THE SECOND TIME! Independent woman? You tell me.

I’m not writing this to throw shade, but seeing it time and again made me start thinking about independence and its place in my life. Merriam-Webster defines it as, “not requiring or relying on something else : not contingent.” Having a handicap, it’s a quality I’ve sought my entire life. My instinct to this day is to try to tackle tasks myself, not to watch others do them and see how it turns out.

Admittedly, there are quite a few situations where I must concede to my limitations. Thus, in the areas where I can work without assistance, I’m particular about trying to maintain my freedom. With technology, for instance, I won’t buy anything I can’t operate on my own. Tablets don’t read my spastic movements well, so the two I’ve purchased were both returned after I realized that. Sure, I could dictate commands to others, but it would rob me of independence and them of time. Instead, I use my funds to buy equipment I can handle, even if it isn’t as chic.

The biggest way I exercise my independence is my writing. Some have thought I rely on my family to type for me, but I can tell them otherwise. Unless I’m on a deadline, every keystroke is mine, and that’s how I like it! Voice recognition programs don’t understand me, so I stick with the old typewriter approach…with one hand, no less. While I have some sore shoulder muscles on occasion, I don’t resent it; I’m proud of it. I’ve developed my individual process and don’t feel at all like it’s impeded my success. Rather, I’d argue that it’s been an asset, making me slow down and think longer on how to phrase something, as well as giving me insight into characters who need to overcome obstacles.

All this said, no one can truly live up to Merriam-Webster’s definition. Everybody relies on others. You may drive a car, but you depend on those who made it and its components, along with whoever drilled the oil to make the gas and then the truck driver who transported it, to make it accessible to you. Hence, this post isn’t intended to give readers the idea that it’s wrong to need people. It’s normal, although in certain circumstances, it may not feel like it is. The most beautiful—and perplexing—part of it is that the right people can help you become more independent.

So maybe I was a little hard on The Bachelorette!

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Editors: A One-Person Jury or a Friendly Doorman to the World of Readers?

I’ve been absent from the blogging scene as of late, but I have a doctor’s note—or more fittingly, an editor’s note.  Yes, since mid-April, I’ve been working with an editor on my newest book, Forgetting My Way Back to You, out this October.  Having done so once before, I knew what to expect: long hours, late nights, and moments of wondering, “How do I change this?”  It all happened, but I learned there are differences each time, and for those of you who haven’t been through the process yet, I wanted to share some tips to help you going into it.

I’ll admit, editing used to be a waste of time in my way of thinking.  In school, we’d be told to pair off and peer-edit, but I rarely took any of the advice my classmates offered.  As a know-it-all teen, I’d written what I wanted, so why change it?  I always earned a high score; why risk that by taking someone else’s input?

Fast forward a few years to when I was finishing my first manuscript.  My goal was to shop it to the publishing world, and I knew that was a bigger deal than getting an A grade on my report card.  Thus, I asked the same teacher who had me peer-edit to proofread my work.  When she gave it back, I expected a correction here or there, which is what I found…on every page!

Remembering the importance of my goal, I complied for the most part.  That first time, though, I justified away some of her feedback and years later, realized how the story suffered because of it.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have her look at every manuscript I’ve written thus far and have become more malleable each time.  Some warn against having someone you know edit your work, but it’s been a true blessing for me.  Unlike a stranger, she cares about my success and knows my style, strengths, and weaknesses probably better than I do.  Plus, her encouraging remarks about my stories have spurred me on to persist in my endeavors.

Working with a professional is quite different, however.  I’ve compared it to learning from your mom and then going off to kindergarten to learn from a teacher.  There are no smiley faces, hearts, or Ha ha’s in the margins; it’s business.  That said, editors are not wrecking crews.  They allow it to be the author’s book but try to enhance its features to make it more enjoyable to readers.  In many respects, they are your first readers and help you to see the best way to present your book to the ones after them.  On occasion, certain phrasing or plot twists may make complete sense in your mind but may not to anybody else.

When editing my debut novel, Husband in Hiding, I had to rework a lot of content to better suit the mystery in it.  With Forgetting My Way Back to You, a love story, I only needed to adjust a couple of scenes but had to pay close attention to my word choice.  I weeded out repetitive words and to accommodate my publisher’s standards, overhaul most of my adverbs.  I also saw how our culture has adversely affected my vocabulary by using the wrong words.  For instance, when Entertainment Tonight says, “Amal Clooney donned a Michael Kors gown,” they’re actually saying she was literally in the act of getting dressed in it!  Lesson in point: Don’t look to entertainment news for grammar lessons (but I still love you, ET!).

In closing, don’t believe those claims that editors change your entire book and make it unrecognizable.  They don’t kick down your sandcastle.  Rather, they pack the towers tighter so they’ll stand taller.  At times, you may doubt yourself because of the mistakes you made, but you shouldn’t.  Telling a good story is the important part, and the editing can make it a great one.  Above all, learn more after every experience.

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