Literary Boogers: Why Writers Should Grab a Tissue and Start Editing

If I were a surgeon by trade and found myself having to remove a kid’s splinter on the playground, with a group of parents watching, I’d ease out that little chunk of wood with such finesse, you’d hear the tale sung of my derring-do for years to come. But why should I care? Getting the splinter out, any old way, would lead to the same result: a splinter-free kid. For me though, the answer is simple. It’s all about pride.

Pride is a valuable tool when wielded thoughtfully. It’s what gets you to do a quick nose check before leaving home because you’ve got more pride than to walk down the street with a booger hanging out.

Circulating your writing before you’ve given it the attention it needs to really pop is the literary equivalent of the hanging booger. While the offense may be quick to fix (with a tissue or some light editing) the fact is you didn’t and everyone saw. Everything a writer posts, hands out or publishes is a writing sample, whether you intend it to be or not. It will be judged and you will be assessed as a writer by its quality.

Your blog is a form of self-publishing, and while the photographer’s blog isn’t judged by its words, the writer’s blog sure as hell is. A blog post should have a beginning, a middle and an end, clearly make a point and be entertaining. It should be carefully edited. You are both writer and editor of your blog. When you’re done writing, have your writer-self leave the room and then edit the crap out of the piece… like your reputation depends on it.

If you’re submitting an article to an editor, this isn’t the time to fall back on believing it’s their job to get it right. It’s not; it’s yours. It’s also your job to make the editor’s work on your piece as easy as possible. Cleaner copy leads to happier editors leads to more jobs. Submit your work after meticulous editing, as if they’ll run the piece without ever reading it. Then, when you get notes back, you’ll get the editor’s insight on how to perfect your story conceptually, rather than having your editor bogged down revising weak prose you could have handled yourself.

Creative writing requires a somewhat different approach, since it’s customary to receive feedback during the process to improve the final story. Your goal when soliciting feedback should be to receive notes that will push your story forward. If you give a reader a story you completed just ten minutes before shipping it off, the likelihood is high that the reader’s feedback will be exactly those things you already knew were problematic. But if you finish the piece, put it aside for a bit, then come back to it with fresh eyes and a no-nonsense edit, when you do get feedback, the reader will be able to access your story and intention more fully and give you ideas and suggestions that may actually elevate your work.

Writing is such an arduous process that it’s a relief to complete something and all any writer wants to do at that point is share it with the world. But once you get beyond that initial flush, you realize what you really want is to share it with the world and have them think it’s awesome. It’s the awesome part that requires a little patience.

Look at each opportunity to share your writing as a chance to show what you can really do and put in the extra effort to nail your pieces every time. You’ll be viewed consistently as a writer with skill, talent and promise. Don’t take it lightly whether people think you’ve got the goods or not. Everybody wants to back the winning horse and to flourish you’ll need all the backing you can get.

So let’s wipe our noses, pull out our red pens and show them our literary derring-do.