royal typewriter, 10-29-14

As a writer, I’ve searched for decades for the perfect “editor.” I needed someone willing to take my rough drafts, drastically edit, and give it back to me with honest feedback. I wanted someone who felt comfortable saying things like, “I’d file this for a while,” or, “This is good, but needs work,” or, “Love this! With a few edge trimmings, it’s ready to go!”

I have worked with many folks who edit over the years. The best was a woman who was my Director of Development in a charity where I was the director 30 years ago. Her job was to raise money, but she had a master’s and a mind like a steel trap. She was also fearless. Once she figured out that I meant it when I said, “You can’t hurt my feelings,” she took after my sloppy first drafts with a meat axe—even though technically I was her boss. Chop, slash, cut was her first draft response. Then, with a relatively new product in hand, I could sit down and edit it to its final state without dying of boredom.

However, development directors are supposed to raise money, not edit the CEO’s meanderings. They also come and go. This one left after five years for an opportunity I couldn’t give her, and for months I was bereft. No one within miles had the patience, talent, or courage to handle my undisciplined but creative writing. Moreover, I had more personal writing projects I wanted to do…just no partner.

Then, 20 years ago I found another editor who agreed to edit personal essays and stories that I wrote. Some of these essays were written to handle enormous grief. Others, well, frankly, were rants about the evils in society, my life or backyard. Good as she was, however, she mostly made corrections in grammar, punctuation, typos and the like, with occasional suggestions for how I might rewrite a paragraph or a page.

I didn’t want suggestions. I wanted someone who understood me enough to do a total rewrite. I wanted someone to make sense of my useful thoughts, throw out the others and organize the remaining words into a rational whole. I continued to search for that right editor for my work; someone who was extremely bright, incredibly creative, unbelievably courageous, whose writing skills were as good as mine, and whose editing skills were out of the park. I began to wonder if this type of editor even existed.

They Do Exist

I learned they did exist. I know exactly the moment it happened. I was doing my usual flip through the posts on one of my social media sites when I had to stop and backup. Something grabbed at my eyeballs. It was this image and this headline:

Green Eggs and Ham: The Only Sales Manual You’ll Ever Need

The author? Terri Lively who describes herself as a Ghostwriter and Author. Her tagline? Lively copy starts with Lively Copywriting.

I liked her even before I finished reading the spunky, sprightly and creative post. Here was a talented professional who shared my love of writing, of organizational challenges, and of the absurd. The photo showing her warm, caring smile just put frosting on the cake I was baking in my head.

My impulsiveness paid off. I dashed off an email saying I’d like to chat…and chat we did, barely allowing the other to take a breath. I could feel her energy, her creativity, and her humor even though she was calling from over 200 miles away.

“What exactly do you do?” I asked.

“I’m a freelance copywriter and a ghostwriter,” she said.

Truthfully, that answer left me a little baffled. What does that mean? Undaunted, however, I asked Terri if she’d be willing to take a look at some of the writing I have done and take a crack at some edits. I neglected to tell her that I had about 100,000 words or more in my archives just itching for someone’s magic editing skills.

The first piece she sent back made my jaw drop. Terri did exactly what I was hoping she would do, but didn’t really believe that anyone could or would. She took out what didn’t work, saved and elaborated on what did. She suggested better titles and rearranged my erratic thoughts into a rational, engaging and fun-to-read whole. I held my breath as I sent a second piece. There was a repeat performance.

After that second success, I had the courage to show Terri a good part of what I had waiting in the wings of countless articles on countless subjects. She not only suggested an EBook on Intentional Leadership but also said that she knew a publisher who would be interested. The publisher was interested, but wanted to see at least 45 to 50,000 words. When I sent her everything I could find that I’d written on leadership, teamwork, etc., we were at 33,799 words.

Over the next month or two, the challenge of producing more words on leadership propelled me into writing a minimum of 1,000 words a day, every day. When I finish what for me is a basic brain dump, I forward the copy to Terri. Within minutes, an email comes back saying, “Got it! I put it on the schedule.”

Soon, an email comes back with incredible edits. I get the ultimate: a brilliant, courageous editor and virtually instantaneous, honest feedback. How cool is that? In writing this post, I checked out her blog and then discovered her website. They are delightful and even more affirming of the kindred spiritedness I feel between us.

That was three months ago. I have now sent her countless drafts, edits, reedits, and more re-edits. I’ve had four articles published on national websites, including Forbes.com and NextAvenue.org, with more in the works. I’m now regularly publishing on LinkedIn, Facebook, and my blog, goals I’ve had for ten years but could never achieve. I’m building my followers, my readers, and my likes. Most importantly, I am having a ball.