Monday, December 20, 2010

Self-murder and other editing tools

I came across a quote recently that, to me, stands among the brilliant statements of a writing career:

Ruthlessness with one's own copy remains the mark of a professional, because you have to stab yourself in the back. - Paul Collins, How to Write Like A Victorian

Collins was writing about the first "how-to" writing book, written in the 1890s, and how it's advice is very similar to the tips writers receive today. It is somewhat ironic that the writer, Sherwin Cody, really didn't have a track record of writing fiction, but he blazed a trail of Victorian writers into that pernicious field of fiction.

Collins point is an excellent one. It is no surprise that the title editors and agents always encourage writers to pick up is "Self-editing for Fiction Writers." (BTW, did you know SEFFW is on Facebook now?) The ability to take a firm stand with one's own work is really one of the marks of the writers that have the best chance of succeeding in publishing. The other, sometimes, is the combination of nerve and nose that Cody demonstrated in the late 1800s. (See the full article here - it's a good read.)

While you ponder that, here's a very funny look at the writer not willing to mess with his own work. Maybe you'll recognize him.

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