Read, Write, Edit, Repeat

When I decided that I wanted to write, I was not at all sure what I was getting into. The world is a great deal more complicated once we step into it. After a few years of touring various conventions, speaking at panels, and doing book signings, I've realized that writing is a lot more complicated than putting words to paper.

Ironically, the hardest part of writing wasn't putting words to paper. In psychology, we call empathy a necessary but insufficient characteristic of a therapeutic relationship. In writing, the actual writing is necessary but insufficient.

Reading is an invaluable part of writing, and I've been doing a lot of that for Misbehaving Dead, the anthology that I'm presently editing for A Murder of Storytellers. We get such great entries—so many more than we can accept. It's such a pleasure to read the stories that we receive, and I learn a great deal from my authors. Not only that, but I get to put together a book full of stories that I love, and that's pretty sweet.

Then there's editing. I hated editing. I realize now that this is because I used to go without it. When I was in school, I would often leave work to the last minute, only reviewing it after my teacher had awarded a grade. This, I learned to my great dismay in graduate school, was a mistake. I had very little time to correct a lifetime of bad habits.

As I approached editing on 13 Hearts to Start a Storm, I felt paralyzed by anxiety. What if, in reading my own work, I discovered it to be shit? My editor was adamant that I had to continue if I was to meet my goals. With much difficulty, I trekked that awful terrain, and I came out on the other side much improved as a writer.

Editing is crucial. It's how you give yourself an opportunity to learn from and correct your mistakes. It's where you get to practice new skills you've learned. It's where you get to sit with your piece and really consume it in a way that you could not have done while you were writing. 13 Hearts to Start a Storm is a thousand times better because of the rounds of editing it went through.

Authors like Stephen King recommend that you leave many details out of your first draft, including references or anything for which you'd have to pick up another book. Writing the first draft of anything is hard enough without having to focus on getting everything just right. So just write. When you come back to your piece to edit—that's when you'll fill out the details. That's when you'll see what your piece is truly about and be able to hone it for your audience.

Writing is necessary, but insufficient. Give reading and editing a try. You'll be a better writer for it.