Humans love gold. We love it because it is rare and valuable. We love it because it never really loses its shine.

Gold is malleable enough that we can make beautiful things out of it. Simple things like a leaf become precious when hammered out of gold.

Writers perform their own alchemy by hammering beautiful ideas out of simple words. Editors carefully buff those words to provide that eternal, golden glow.

It’s no mistake that many trees’ leaves turn gold at this time of year. After a long summer of work doing what trees do, they leave us with their beautiful best as they prepare for their long, winter slumber. Like arboreal goldsmiths, they give us something spectacular from the mundane.

Creating beauty from the simple things around us is hard work. Wordsmiths take an ingot of ideas and start pounding them into some sort of shape. Again and again they go over their creation to find just the right words, just the right rhythm.

It’s not just the great poets or great novelists who do this. The everyday writer – those who write blogs, training manuals, news stories, and business letters among them – who strives to craft the best writing product possible from the work-a-day, leaden words that surround them is truly the writing alchemist.

Readers see the untarnished value in their words -- those golden, priceless words. 

Curtis trotted into the house, dropped his backpack at the back door, and charged into the kitchen. He was starving after a busy but productive day at school.

On the counter, sitting in the middle of a plate, was a big chocolate chip cookie, his favorite. Next to it was a note: “Went to the store. Be right back. Mom.”

Curtis smiled. The crease along the middle of the cookie meant it was homemade.

“Yum!” he thought as he reached for his treat.

When his fingers were an inch from his cookie, an eye opened up in the middle of it! Curtis froze in disbelief. The green, watery eye in the cookie considered Curtis calmly. Then it blinked.

 Almost on its own, Curtis’s body turned and flew to the door. He tripped over his backpack, picked himself up, and ran screaming into the street.

The best horror stories are the ones that take something totally innocuous and turn it into something surreal.

Most people, whether they want to admit it or not, like things to be “normal.” They don’t like things challenging their expectations – except when they want to be entertained.

As we head toward Halloween, we expect the unusual, even crave it. We seek out the abnormal – in carefully controlled and choreographed circumstances, of course.

Writers often think outside the norm. They look at things and can see the unexpected or unusual. They put these different perspectives before the public and help change the way people look at life. Sometimes it’s temporary, but the best writers will show us a different side of things that stays with us, sometimes haunts us.

Writers should pat themselves on the back. The world needs their differentness; it keeps us honest.

Just think of that the next time you reach for a chocolate chip cookie!

Although it might not always seem so, September foreshadows a time when we start buttoning up sweaters, jackets, or coats in preparation for the end of the year. In our writing, we have to prepare as we come to the end of any project; we need to button it up as well.

This is sometimes the hardest part for writers. They pour so much energy, time, and themselves into their writing that it is hard to give it up, hard to know when it’s done. Then again, sometimes they wish they could have sent it off weeks before.

Either way, it is important that we take some needed steps for a successful sendoff. It’s like sending our children off for the first day of school. We want them to be prepared. Whether you’re sending something off to a publisher, periodical editor, writing contest, management team, or printer, it’s never a good idea to just wing it. Make sure your writing has its shirt buttoned up and is ready to board the publication bus.

Include Contact Information

“Duh!” you say. However, it is the forehead slapping mistakes we make that so often make us look bad. Whatever the writing product is, make sure someone can easily contact you with any questions. Put contact information several places (cover letter, first page of work, sticky note, whatever). We’ve all had things “fall off” of our work at the worst possible time.

Make Sure It’s Clean and Tidy

You wouldn’t (purposely) send your child off to school with rumpled clothes, teeth not brushed, or unwashed face. Don’t send off sloppy writing. Make sure it is formatted properly and has as many mechanical errors fixed as you can manage.

(If you’re sending something off to a publisher like Sunscribe Publishing, make sure you follow their submission guidelines!)

Have Something Else to Do

If we didn’t have work to go to after we send our children off on the school bus, we’d wallow in separation anxiety. Avoid the same problem with writing by having another project on the table or even in the works.  When you’re concentrating on something else, you won’t have time to worry about what’s happening to what you’ve recently sent off into the world.

Taking just a few steps to button up our writing before sending it on its way will help it succeed (and make things less traumatic for the writer).

There’s something about editors that scares people. I’m not sure why. We’re a happy-go-lucky, cuddly bunch…

Okay, maybe not so much. We do tend toward exacting standards, a martinet demeanor, and fanatical grammar tendencies. Warm and fuzzy we’re not, but there are ways to safely approach the savage editing animal.

To understand editors is to realize that they aspire to perfection in the final product. (If you’ve ever dealt with a perfectionist, you know that they are perpetually frustrated.) Editors want to make sure the writers say what they want and the readers get what they need. This isn’t always easy when you factor in money, time, and personalities. 

When approaching the untamed editor, a writer should make the effort to soothe things (read as “meet some of the editor’s needs”). 

  • A writer should make sure the piece is in the correct format and as clean as the writer can get it. (Do not present something handwritten in pencil on note paper; you might lose your head!)

  • Make yourself open to the editor’s suggestions. There is nothing more exhausting for an editor than a writer who fights over every little word and comma. 

  • Writers should reveal some of their concerns with the piece. Maybe one section is too awkward; maybe the spelling stinks; maybe commas cover the paper like reverse snow. Editors respect writers who can clue them in on things to watch out for.

  • Both writers and editors should agree on and understand the process. Editors should be able to make minor changes but let writer implement any suggestions for major changes.

Sure, an editor might still be a bit rough and grumble after all this, but chances are there will be no blood.