Trees reaching high into the blue sky.

This weekend, I went to a local park for a walk.  It’s March, so we’re headed for spring.   There are buds showing up on some of the trees, and there are even some flowering trees blooming pink.  One of the things I did in the park was look up.

And watch for a few minutes.  The tree tops were swaying in the wind.  It was both amazing and frightening.  Frightening because my first thought was to wonder if the trees were going to come down.  And amazing because this is what the trees are supposed to do, and they generally hold up pretty well.

A couple came by in the opposite direction, walking a friendly black lab.  They stopped because they were wondering why I was looking up.

Today, everything moves so fast that people don’t stop to look up, or to pay attention.

For writers, that’s a huge problem.  There’s a lot of misinformation and hype out there.  Writers want to only deal with the creative side of writing and not pay attention to the boring business side.  They want someone else to take care of it.

So they don’t ask questions, or even do the research to ask intelligent questions.  They don’t look up, they don’t look down, and they don’t look around.  They look down a very narrow tunnel.

And they trust people, without ever asking what that person is getting out of it.

An example is developmental editing.

Many writers use the terms revision and editing interchangeably.  These are actually two different skills.  Knowing what the heck they are would make it a lot easier to evaluate what is being offered when looking for services.

When I was looking for a copy editor, I found a lot of people recommending developmental editing.  Almost no one recommended copy editing, or even proofreading.

Being an INTP, I was automatically skeptical.  Developmental editing is the most expensive of all the editing services.  So I dug deeper: Who was recommending it?

  1. Beginning writers
  2. Developmental editors.

I took it one step further.  Why were the beginning writers recommending it?  Because “everyone” was recommending it.  No one was asking the next question:

Who’s making the money?

The developmental editors.

And the beginning writers were recommending it to each other, while using revision and editing interchangeably.  They didn’t even know what the terms meant, so it put them at a huge disadvantage.  They didn’t know what they were doing, but the developmental editor did.

Now there’s a developmental editor who has it written into her contract that she gets a byline on a book she edited.

Think about that.

The writer wrote the entire book.  They sent the book to this editor, who made comments.  Paid said editor probably a couple grand.  Maybe they used all the suggested changes, and maybe they didn’t.  And gave the editor credit like they had written the book.

Critical thinking is imperative to survive in the world of writing.  These are way too many people with their hand out, hoping that you won’t ask questions, or are equally ignorant of what they’re doing.

Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.”

Even that’s not true anymore.

Little girl looking at book through magnifier

Research first, to fill in gaps of you knowledge.   That means more than asking another writer at the same level, or Googling it.  Look up the biographies of the people to see if they have the background to know what they’re talking about.  I got taken a lot on writing courses because I did this step, but didn’t research far enough.

Verify.  Before you purchase anything or sign a contact, check the person out thoroughly.  There was a writer who popped onto the writing boards I was on, telling everyone we needed to outline.  Turned out he had a book coming out on a process he was promoting.  I looked him up.  At the time, he had published three novels, with the last one almost 7 years ago.  Nothing since.  Only three books meant he was still a beginner.  But he did have an editing service.

Never assume that things stay the same.  Always reread whatever information they’re providing each time, in case it changes.  I went into the grocery store today to buy coconut milk.  Everyone’s buying it now, so everyone’s jumping in.  For some reason today, I checked the ingredients again.  The label on the can looked the same.  It was identified clearly as coconut milk on the front.  That wasn’t one of the ingredients.

Research, verify, and keep verifying.

Links for further research

  • What the heck is editing and revision: Keys to Effective Editing.  I had this class now probably about ten years ago.  It’s a good basic class that’s fun because you actually do editing.
  • Six Critical Thinking Skills to Master: This is a short list of things to think about when you are assessing information.
  • Personal MBA: Head straight for the section on Problem Solving.  You need critical thinking for problem solving so the books listed here will be a good start.  Not only that, you might be able to find them in the library.