I’ve been getting feedback from writing groups for some time, but I’m relatively new to working with a professional editor. The editor I’ve worked with has reviewed three of my stories at this point, and over a period of as many years so we aren’t in touch regularly.
The most recent story she’s helped me with is about Stevie Ray Vaughan. An intimidating project, to put it mildly, with someone so well-known and loved at its center. Not to mention someone whose own work is so stratospherically good and who must have put in his 10,000 hours by the age of 14.
How did I end up with such a daunting project? At first it was more of a writing exercise, focused on a quality of his that I admire. Then I submitted it to a writing group and discovered nearly half the people who read it had never heard of him.
That was well past the last reaction I’d expected. As in a few galaxies past the last thing I’d expected to hear. It was too much, too crazy, and a little alarming. There’s no knowing how much difference a story of mine can make, but that’s when it stopped being a private project. I had to make it as good as I was able and send it out there.
You can’t just bring your A game to a project like this. You have to run it through boot camp a few times between drafts. That means finding tough reviewers, which includes working with a good editor.
So the encouraging thing that happened is a while ago the editor I worked with sent an article link to me about a musician who passed away recently (in Prince’s shadow, someone who is not as widely known). It included a few passages about Stevie Ray Vaughan helping this musician out, nudging him to do a few things that were helpful and going the extra mile to lend a hand (one of the themes of my story).
I was so touched that she’d sent the link. It felt as though the story’s point had made contact. At the very least I hoped it meant I’d managed to put SRV front and center and avoided getting in his way.
It also made me realize how important it is to only send your best work out there. Imagine burying a good point inside a story that’s not really finished and having it kind of skate past everyone, or hit people in a way that doesn’t at all resemble your point.
Of course all those things can happen anyway, but let it at least come from the best we can do, not something we tossed together and decided was good enough for now. And I have to say, sometimes a first draft is so hard for me to get down—at least in a way that resembles what made me sit down to write—it can feel as though I’ve climbed Everest and finished the project.
But it’s only the beginning.