Self-editing is the hardest thing a writer has to learn. Yes, you can read that “kill your darlings” advice over and over in the how-to books, but without a professional editor, most of us are blind to our own work’s flaws. We keep saying, “But I LOVE that scene. That’s where I explore the hero’s touching relationship with his pet griffin and…what? It doesn’t further the plot? Yeah but…”
Unfortunately, very few beginning novelists can afford to hire a professional freelance editor to help commit those verbal murders. But without a good edit, your work is not likely to reach a publisher’s desk—especially in today’s ultra-competitive market.
As Nathan Bransford said in a brilliantly funny recent post, what we have to learn isn’t so much how to write as how to REVISE.
However, if you live on the Central Coast of California, this month you have an amazing opportunity to take an intensive course in self-editing from a great American writer—for a whole lot less cash than it would cost to hire a professional editor to work on just a chapter or two.
After managing the Pay It Forward foundation for a decade, Catherine Ryan Hyde has stepped down to allow more time for writing and teaching. Catherine—who wrote the 1999 bestseller Pay It Forward as well as 13 other literary and YA novels and too many prize-winning short stories to count—is offering an intensive self-editing course on the weekend of April 24-25, in Cambria, California.
This is your chance to edit your WIP with the help of a successful writer who is also a wise and caring teacher.
I first met Catherine twenty years ago when visiting a local critique group. I’d already published my first novel (as a serial in an entertainment weekly) and although Catherine’s short stories had appeared in lots of prestigious journals and won some impressive awards, she was still struggling with book length fiction.
I found her prose electrifying, but several members of the group didn’t seem to get it, and made what I thought were harsh and unhelpful comments. Because I was a guest, I wasn’t allowed to critique, but when I ran into Catherine later in the Post Office, I told her I didn’t agree with what had been said. She just smiled. “I always consider the source,” she said. “If a criticism is valid, it will bring an ‘ah-ha’ moment. Otherwise, I let it go.”
She had already learned the art of self-editing.
We ran into each other again at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference a few years later, when she was reading another brilliant short story. At that point she had found an agent to represent a collection of her stories, but the agent wasn’t impressed with her novels and told her that Pay It Forward, especially, “needed a lot of work” and would never sell. But Catherine didn’t rewrite to please the agent. She put the book aside and started another.
A year later, another agency cold-called Catherine to say they’d fallen in love with one of her stories in an obscure literary journal (yes, that used to happen) and did Catherine have any novels? She sent Pay it Forward and the rest is history. (BTW, she didn’t have any input on the 2000 film starring Kevin Spacey, which deviated a good deal from the book.)
Catherine's own experience makes her a uniquely qualified teacher: she won’t tell you to redo your work to fit a cookie-cutter mold or the latest trend. She’ll teach you to hone your work into the best version of your own story that it can be.
Enrollment in her self-editing workshop is very limited, to allow intensive one-on-one teaching, so if you’re interested (think what cred it will give your query letter!) I’d suggest contacting her ASAP. The email address is: email@example.com
If you’d like to study with her, but can’t make the April workshop, it might be worthwhile to contact her anyway. She just might offer it again. I hope so.