How Being A Total Idiot Makes You A Better Editor And Writer

Hope you had a great weekend.

I thought the post last week about what I learned from editing would be the last one about it, and that would be that. I’d move on to other things.

I was wrong.

I’m on the last leg of my journey as a developmental editor for a motivational book. And things just keep popping up.

The author I’m working with is a golf enthusiast. With a capital E. I have nothing against golf—I’ve played miniature golf, and when I was younger, messed around on putting greens on regular courses (with permission).

Golf just doesn’t excite me all that much.

Here’s the kicker—there are some golf quotes in the book I’m working on. Not a lot, but some. And I got a little lost, and had to do a little online-look-see to figure some things out. That’s fine.

So what if I had to look up the nicknames of famous golfers? What does this have to do with anything?

A lot.

According to folks like Wikipedia and Webster’s, the word “idiot” actually means things like someone without pro skills, or someone who’s uneducated, ignorant, and what-have-ya…

Someone who just plain doesn’t know.

And that’s where the magic is.

As an almost totally uninformed golf person, I had to ask questions to clarify some things—questions that folks who are pros in a certain subject know the answers to.

But that I didn’t.

Details create questions inside readers. Questions may result in confusion if they’re not answered, somewhere along the way.

There’s HUGE potential here for both fiction writers and copywriters (folks who write to persuade).

Which is why this is a Decode, with tips that will cover both groups.

One of my fantasy short stories got rejected by an online magazine one time. Why? The answer was a lot more flowery-sounding, but what I got out of it was I tried to have too much plot in too little space.

Everything was clear to me. In my head. I knew why the protagonist had to fail on his quest. I just didn’t get that across in the amount of space I chose to use. And sometimes that’s the problem. I didn’t keep the reader in mind. So a reader (who happened to be a fiction editor) got lost.

And my story boarded the train to Rejection Slip Central.

As writers we want to have readers experience our emails, stories, and suchlike the way we do.

We do the best we can with that. Sometimes it flops. Readers get confused, close the browser, don’t click, don’t buy a darn thing, don’t read on.

For copywriters, it’s a lot more about the readers (or prospects) than folks may think. It’s about how people make decisions. And sometimes it’s a lot easier to lose readers because they’ve come to you or your client looking to solve a problem or get through something that’s been bugging them—which means they can get confused about who you are, why your solution is effective, what to do next, and what-have-ya.

No matter if it’s a copywriting conundrum, or a fiction snafu, it can’t be solved in one post—too big of a subject with too many variables.

My point here is that readers want to know, be entertained, and so on.

And if they’re not familiar with you, your writing, or your product, they’ll start out knowing either a lot, a little, or nothing about the subject(s) you bring up.

All depends on who you’re writing for (or to).

The next time you want to do a little editing or revising on your own emails, stories, or what-have-ya, try to approach it as someone who knows nothing about your characters, product, or plot.

What information does someone who knows little or nothing about what you’re writing (depending on your audience) need to know so that they’ll keep reading?

What are you revealing to your readers, and why? Implication can be just as powerful (if not more) than jumping out and blurting something, depending on the context.

So if you’re stuck, ask yourself the questions above as you read over your writing.

You’ll have more ideas to make things clearer than you’ll know what to do with.

Until next time,



About Ty Mall

Thanks for stopping by. I've almost always been interested in writing, among other things. Along with discovering pop culture, I've uncovered a lot about the craft over the past 10 years. And whether you're a fiction writer or email copywriter, I'm here to pass on what I've found out. And have a ton of fun in the process.
This entry was posted in Editing and Revision, Fiction and Copy Decodes and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How Being A Total Idiot Makes You A Better Editor And Writer

  1. I think I have the problem of being too explicit if I’m not watching my writing carefully. This trait has arisen from the need for clarity in Genealogy. I spent 14 years doing my family history and when there are several generations with the same name, you have to be crystal clear in your writing, especially when writing to other possible family members, ha ha.

    • Ty Mall says:

      Thanks for stopping by Carole. Figuring out how much info is too much CAN be a bit of a tightrope walk–although most of writing is about balance. And I definitely understand being clear (sometimes to the point of extra paragraphs) in family history–especially if the first and/or middle name of certain family members is carried forward. It’s also about gauging how much of your subject (in your case, family history) your readers will be familiar with. Thanks for the comment.

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