Assisting a New Generation of Writers

Before my co-author and I started publishing our story on Amazon another friend of mine asked if I would edit a story she was working on.  She graduated high school a little over a year ago and her strong suite (and what she is going to college for) is graphic design.  She also admitted to me that while she is an avid reader and has had ideas for stories before this is the first attempt she had made at actually putting a story together.

Years ago, before my major was English, my high school friend Sally and I were going to the same college, which was not the college I eventually got my degree from.  Sally and I had had a marvelous string of English teachers and classes available in high school.  AP Literature, AP Composition, English Honors I, II, and III.  I had even taken a dual credit course at the local University, English Literature II.  And we both received A’s in all of those classes.  I am one year older than Sally so I went off to College first.

My second year of school Sally and I roomed together in the dorms (this turned out to be a great learning experience).  I was doing a work grant program.  The professor I was paired up with was an Art Professor.  He had me do odd jobs, cleaning and organizing tools and equipment for the most part.  Besides being a sculpting professor he also taught Art Appreciation and Art History classes.  Side note on the sculpting classes:  One of his students created a work entirely out of large, jagged, pieces of glass which were stacked on top of each other at various angles.  (This really has nothing with the main point of this blog post but it was an amazing piece of art I wanted to share.)

So the Art Appreciation and Art History classes involved writing papers about, obviously, art. One day the professor decided to have me edit his students’ papers.  Not for content but for technical aspects.  By the time I was editing the third paper of the semester the professor informed me that he didn’t tell his students who was editing their pages because apparently they wanted to kill the person.  He said he had one student who had been getting A’s and after my editing her grade had dropped to a B.  

This was not my fault.  The papers he gave me to edit were supposed to be final drafts.  When you have someone write a sentence: “The circle is the circle because it is a circle.” In response to–I don’t even remember the question–not that it matters, a badly written sentence is a badly written sentence.  I don’t care if they are Art Majors or Freshmen or whatever you have to follow the rules of makes sense.  Forget technical finesse.  The damn sentence has to at least be sensible.  And “The circle is the circle because it is a circle,” does not qualify as sensible.  Rant over.

He stopped letting me edit papers shortly after the announcement that my life was in danger.  Though this example should have been enough for me to have an “Aha!” moment in regards to my major, it wasn’t.  

The next clue the Universe gave me about my destined major came in the Spring semester.  A friend of ours who was History Major and a Senior asked Sally and I to edit his final paper for a class.  We said okay.

We made him cry.

It was a 20 page paper about the assassination of Rasputin.  One of the many transgressions included the use of a phrase he didn’t know the meaning of.  A Loaded Stick.  Now Sally and I may not have the most expansive knowledge of weapons but we really had not a clue as to what a Loaded Stick was.  We hunted and researched what this thing could possibly be. When we asked him what a Loaded Stick was his response, I don’t know it was just what was in the book.  However, in the paper he didn’t directly quote or cite the book. The book he used was on his reference page but if he had directly quoted it the fact he didn’t know what it was would be a little more forgivable. So please, if you take nothing else away from this post, do not for the love of God use a term that you have not a clue what it means.  If you were to have to do a presentation you would look like an idiot. I didn’t realize there would be so many mini rants.

The last sign from the Universe that I needed to be an English Major came in the form of Sally’s brother failing an English Class at the same high school we had graduated from.  He failed this class after Sally and I helped edit his paper for the class.  Apparently, after we graduated, not only did they get new English teachers at the high school but the English teachers were teaching the most stupid way of writing ever. It had to do with some sort of five point system or five point paragraph or something.  Five was in the name of the method anyway.  This teacher wanted him to tell her what he was going to tell her in the paper.  Then at the end of the paper he was to tell her what he had already told her.

Nothing, nothing, gets me riled up faster than a paper or a speaker using the phrase, “In Conclusion,” or “In this paper I will.”  No.  F’ing no.  Tell me what you are telling me then sum it up…without the use of the words, conclusion, in summary, etc.  Honestly, it can be done.  I promise.  Whoever this teacher was didn’t agree with the method Sally and I used to edit his paper and failed him on the paper and in the class.  Their mom went down to the school and got that fixed.

Even in light of these examples it wasn’t until about two years later I decided to major in English. 

 Wrapping back around to my high school friend who was writing her first fiction story, I warned her about my sharp and poisonous pen.  She understood and still asked me to edit.  The reason I included the story about Sally’s brother is because English classes have either not changed since he was in school, gotten worse, or perhaps my friend, Connie is simply not good at English.  Whatever the case the first draft was rough.

It is a good concept, an interesting concept.  Connie used some phrasing and words that were outstanding.  The overall technical and contextual aspects though, needed a ton of work.  Connie had emailed me a document that was five pages long, double spaced.  Using the editing feature in Word my edits (including 30+ comments) turned it into a 10 page paper.  I was afraid she would be heartbroken, would give up or would cry like the Senior. 

I am happy to say I was wrong.  Instead she was ecstatic about my edits and has since worked really hard to improve and has improved.  She appreciates my encouragement and she appreciates the knowledge I can give her.  Connie wants to be able to write like my co-author and I do.  She wants to be able to move people and paint pictures for people with words the way we do.

Many people I know who write don’t enjoy the editing process.  Whether for their own story/paper or someone else’s.  It can be tedious and taxing.  Yet, it is a part of writing a great story that relates to the masses. 

For me writing my own story and other people wanting to read it, enjoying reading it, makes me a good writer.  What makes me a great writer is taking the opportunity to mentor and help inspire other, newer, younger writers to create their own stories.  Seeing their passion and helping them shape it, watching it come alive and grow, is worth all the Amazon Book Sales in the world.