Back before I was published, I longed for an author to help me know what I was doing wrong. I joined a couple of local writing groups, but none of the other members were published either. As one member put it, we were the blind leading the blind. I did learn some things from the groups since there were members who’d been writing longer than I had. After a few years, I joined a national group and signed up for a mentor in conjunction with attending my first national conference. I thought she was going to help me write. It turned out, she was just a friendly face, so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed at my first HUGE conference.
Dusty Richards lived in AR until he passed a few years ago, and had several published secular Westerns. I heard him speak at a conference and he challenged everyone to send him a chapter of their manuscript and he’d critique it for free. I learned a lot from him on that long ago chapter. I approached two other authors and was told they didn’t have time. I vowed that if I ever got published, I’d make time to help unpublished writers.
Eventually, I signed up for two paid critiques at a national conference, one by Deb Raney and the other by Margaret Daly. What they taught me was invaluable. I entered contests with published authors as judges who gave feedback and learned more priceless lessons. Along with all of this, it took me 9 1/2 years of writing, reading craft books on writing, submitting to publishers, getting over 200 rejections, and attending writers groups and conferences before I finally got a contract. Working with editors taught me a busload of lessons.
I quickly learned why those authors said they didn’t have time to help me. But in the last several years, I’ve stuck to my vow. I’ve taught for free and done critiques when I have time for my local writing group, taught classes to middle school, high school, and college students, taught classes at conferences in several different states, judged unpublished contests where I’ve given feedback, and done paid critiques at several conferences. When I critique, I try to be very thorough, helpful, and encouraging. My goal is to help writers improve their stories and give them the tools they need to catch the eye of an editor.
Several times, I’ve thought I’d enjoy being an editor. But traditional publishers pretty much expect you to have a college degree. Even when you’ve learned from four different editors through sixteen published books. Once kindergarten was over, I hated school. From the time I learned that one day I’d graduate and wouldn’t have to go anymore, that was my goal. Once I finished high school, if someone had offered to pay me to attend college, I wouldn’t have.
But despite my lack of degree, God opened an opportunity. I can’t reveal all the details because it’s not public knowledge yet, but a friend familiar with my writing, critiques, and the classes I’ve taught at conferences on self-revision recently asked me to go into a partnership with her to acquire a small Christian publishing company. I will be the acquisitions/content editor. That means, when books are submitted for publication, it will be my job to read them and decide if they’ll get published or not. If the writer gets a contract, then I’ll handle the content edit which consists all the elements that keep readers reading. My partner will handled the business side of things, copy editing which is mostly grammar and punctuation, and cover design. I hate business and grammar and don’t know how to do covers and I’m handling the things she’s unfamiliar with. We’re the perfect team.
Once I complete my first drafts of my books, I have a system I use to make revisions before I turn it in to my editor. But even after my revisions, my editor catches things I don’t. Partly because I’m too close to the characters and the story. It’s much easier to catch other writers mistakes than my own. I’ll use my system on books we publish, and even though I still hate school, I’m taking an online editing course. When it’s done, I’ll be a certified editor. I’m certain I’ll learn new tricks of the trade.
I’m pretty excited about all of it. But nervous too. I still want to write, so I don’t want to get so busy with editing that I don’t have time. My new boss plans to work around my writing schedule and hire more editors if I get too busy, but it may be a while before she can afford it.
I’ll have to dole out rejections and I know what that feels like. I plan to give any writers I reject advice on what to work on, so at least they’ll know what they’re doing wrong. And what they’re doing right.
One of the perks is I get to write a book on writing. I’ve never done that, so I’m really looking forward to it. The book will be based on one of the classes I teach at writer’s meetings and conferences on self-revision. As for my fiction books, if I have a story that doesn’t fit typical publishing houses or is too edgy with real life turmoil, I’ll have the opportunity to publish it if I want.
I prayed about this decision and talked to my family about it. I felt like God gave me a green light and my family did as well. By the time you read this post, I’ll be on a road trip home with my new boss after meeting with the current owner of the company and one of their editors to sign the contract. I’m praying for a safe trip and I plan to pray over that meeting. I’ll pray over each manuscript that crosses my desk. And for each eager writer I come across as I make their dreams come true. Or dash their hopes while doing my best to encourage them to continue writing and learning.
I’m giving away a copy of my latest release, Hill Country Redemption. Answer this question to get in the drawing: Have you ever had a career change or expand into a new opportunity? How did it work out for you? Deadline for the drawing is May 14th. Since I’ll be returning home the day this post goes live, I’ll try to keep up with comments on my phone, but it may be evening before I can answer them all.