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We’ve Got Spirit, How ‘Bout… Well, crap.

When I was little, I thought that cheerleaders were the people who didn’t make the team. Now, I’ve become one of them.

One of my writers called me last week for some encouragement about the direction of his novel. When you work almost single-mindedly on one project for more than six months, you can begin to question your creative vision.

So instead of being a coach or trainer, I put on my editorial short skirt and shook those pom poms. And let me tell you, I really hate pom poms.

Sometimes, your writers don’t need your grammatical two cents. They don’t need plot revision or character development suggestions.

They just need to be reassured that theirs is a project worth your time.

Maybe this is a little easier to accomplish for me since lots of my editing is done pro-bono. Typically, people don’t do things they don’t like for free if they have the option not to. So that alone helps my case for credibility.

Still, as an editor, it would be unfair to say I never doubt the end result of a work. Let’s be honest – even with solid writers, that first draft can be rough!

The trick is getting two people to mutually believe in a work enough to push each other through those moments of doubt. Part of that is really hoping you don’t have synchronized moments of doubt.

For the editor, a lot of giving encouragement happens on the page, but having actual spoken conversations with your writer is important as well. Use your words!

Hopefully your writer is open enough to initiate the discussion when one needs to be had. But not everyone is so ready to admit her problems out loud.

If you’re starting to see repeat problems in a manuscript – for example, lazy verbs – bring it up with your writer. It doesn’t have to be phrased as a criticism (“Really, buddy, could you work in one more helping verb?!”), but focus on where they’ve done it right and express your desire for more of that.

Often, a writer’s sense of overall doubt emerges from a specific problem in the text – a fact they may or not be aware of. If they express general frustration, get them to pinpoint what’s bothering them by working backwards to find the spark of the issue.

If they know what the problem is, brainstorm like a beast on how to solve it. Simply talking through an issue can be encouraging because it’s like writer’s therapy. The goal is to help them find the best resolution for themselves and their work.

Plus, creative collaboration is a really rewarding part of being involved in the writing process! (Being a cheerleader makes me use more exclamation points than normal).

Cheerleaders don’t shout cheers about what their team does wrong or where they’re weak. They completely focus on current confidence and future potential.

That isn’t always what editors should be doing; in fact, it’s probably not going to help your writer grow over time. It’s important to bring out the coach’s whistle and exercise some tough love. But sometimes, cheerleading is what’s needed most.

Besides, if they leave the field, where does that really leave you? On the sidelines holding those stupid pom poms wearing itchy bloomers.




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