top of page
New York City
Featured Posts

Think of any daring, talented and interesting writer—Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Didion, Sontag, Kerouac, Steinbeck, Henry Miller, Baldwin, Mailer, David Foster Wallace, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ottessa Moshfegh, Zadie Smith, Elif Batuman, etc—and you instantly see that the art stems from an intriguing, even dangerous artist. This is causal: Writers are generally an unusual lot. They are weird, freakish, isolated, individual, “different.” The wild eccentric weirdos who the rest of society seems flummoxed and yet often captivated by.

This doesn’t describe all writers, of course. There are the boring, tried and true stories of cold MFA programs, typical lives lived for typical reasons. But more often than not, writers are the ones who see things in a much deeper, more full way than the average bear (both a blessing and a curse), who are highly sensitive (for both good and ill), who wear their hearts on their sleeves, who have a black smear of self-indulgent narcissism and desire desperately to be “heard and understood,” who are vulnerable and yet simultaneously somehow aloof, who seem to always be documenting everything in their lives. They “see” things in life from different angles, vantage points and perspectives than most people.

Many writers—myself very much included—do not live conventional or typical or “normal” lives. We are in fact not “normal” people. This isn’t to say writers are better than anyone or somehow superior; actually if anything I’d argue that writers are in some ways disastrous failures: We are usually (but not always) deeply wounded and insecure and seek constant inner and outer validation from a society which refuses to give it. Especially today, at a time when books seem to either be read much less often, or else be startlingly ideological.

My point is a neutral one: Writers, by and large, are their own breed. I am almost 13 years sober and even in AA circles people think differently of alcoholic writers versus just general alcoholics. Writers are very commonly alcoholics; it doesn’t take more than a second to conjure up the old familiar names of famous literary drunks: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Cheever, Kerouac, London, Wallace, King, etc. This of course makes sense: Writers being so hyper self- and other-aware, highly sensitive, how could many of them not be alcoholics? Ditto suicide.

Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear attempts to annihilate this notion I’m presenting, making the claim that just because you’re a writer doesn’t mean you have to be tied to the old fashioned and anachronistic and unhealthy idea that you should be mentally or psychologically sick. I like the book. A lot, actually. Everyone should read it. And I don’t necessarily disagree with the basic premise: To be a writer you don’t have to be broken. There is a 20th century myth that in order to be and survive as a writer you must be totally self-destructive, must drink to blackout, must be incredibly wounded and in constant spiritual pain. I do not think this is true.

That said, the history of 20th century writers and writing cannot be ignored, and it is rife with alcoholism, suicide, violence, suffering. It doesn’t have to be anyone’s experience. I don’t encourage mimicry. I encourage all people to live their truest, most authentic lives. Be “who you are,” unless, like the existentialists (say like Sartre and Camus) you don’t believe in any inherent “self.”

I speak personally here. I am one of these broken, wounded writers. Not broken as in unfixable or completely ruined and useless. Broken as in somehow spiritually bent into an inner symbolic shape which is not like most others. Other writers get it. My “breed,” my “tribe.” I come from a writing family. My mother is an author. My maternal uncle. Two cousins.

For those of you not paying attention, Claudine Gay is the current (hopefully temporary) president of Harvard University. She’s a Black woman in her early fifties. She started her tenure in July. In October she made headlines when being interviewed by congress and refusing to condemn student calls for the genocide of Jews. Following this, a few instances of plagiarism were discovered, which soon bloomed into dozens of instances of plagiarism. Currently she’s now accused of not releasing her data-sets from her early 2000s paper which gave her a PhD at Stanford. She’s been criticized roundly on all sides for most of this.

The claim on the Left and by many at Harvard is the usual: This is a “right-wing conspiracy” and “racism.” Or else there have been bizarre rationalizations of the plagiarism claiming that it’s “not really plagiarism.” (For cases where it clearly is, for instances where Harvard students are routinely disciplined, and according to Harvard’s own designation of the act of plagiarism.)

This is the most blatant and obvious moment of Woke Racism. To elite white progressives, both at Harvard and off, Claudine Gay is nothing but a political football, to be hurled around for virtue-signaling points. She’s not a full human being but rather a symbol. The most superficial thing about her—her skin pigmentation—is being used as the main criteria for defending a clearly disastrous record. Do you realize how awful and detrimental doing is this going to be for all Black Americans? From now on whenever a Black American gets into a high position of power, people are absolutely going to think, Hmmmm; were they hired because of competency and merit…or because they’re Black?

I’m a published writer and developmental editor; I’ve been doing both for around 14 years. Along the way I successfully edited many books (both fiction and memoir), among them Christian Picciolini’s “White American Youth,” Deborah Holt Larkin’s “A Lovely Girl: The Tragedy of Olga Duncan and the Trial of One of California’s Most Notorious Killers,” and Gini Grossenbacher’s “Madam in Silk,” among many others.

Over the years I got my degree in writing from San Francisco State; I interned for a literary agent for nine months in 2013; I began getting my fiction published; I wrote 12 books; I started a Substack writing newsletter; and I edited hundreds of books. I also joined probably half a dozen freelance editing/writing sites, such as Upwork, the EFA (Editorial Freelancer’s Association, a great resource for new writers seeking editing), BAEF (Bay Area Editors’ Forum), Fiver, and more. During all this time I learned a LOT about what works and what doesn’t work for editing, both from my perspective and from the perspective of the author.

From this experience I include below a common list of Do’s and Don’ts:


1. Before choosing an editor: Do some serious research. First: What type of editing do you actually need? Most new writers need structural/substantive aka developmental editing, NOT line or copy editing or proofreading, etc.

2. After deciding what type of editing you need, make sure you do your homework about each editor you look at. What are their qualifications? How long have they been in the industry? Do they have proven, tested, published titles to tout? Do they have testimonials? Feel free to even email a few of the writers with testimonials to see what their experience was.

3. Ok. You know the type of editing you need for your book, and you’ve found an editor. Great. This one is going to be annoying but it needs to be said: Be prepared to spend some money. Nowadays, sadly, the vast majority of new writers more or less want something for just about nothing. I can’t tell you how many writers have asked me to do free work, or have offered me rates so abysmally low that I couldn’t possibly respect myself if I took the gig. Quality costs bread, pure and simple. I charge 5 cents per word. So if your book were 85,000 words that’d be $4,250. I know. It’s a lot. Again: You pay for quality. It’s a tough one because the chances of a writer legitimately making money off their book are very slim. But most writers write out of love, not potential profit.

Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Me
  • Facebook App Icon
  • Twitter App Icon
  • LinkedIn App Icon
bottom of page