Mediocre is not “ok”.

The longer I’m in writing groups the more I detest certain behaviors, and this is one of the most insidious. I’m sure most of us have been in writing groups and heard people say “spelling doesn’t matter, just get the story out!” or “who cares about grammar; that’s the editor’s job!” Unfortunately, this attitude fosters the idea that everything a writer puts to paper is pure genius and deletes the potential for further progress.

Now, this doesn’t mean I expect my first drafts to be masterpieces. They are riddled with typos, continuity errors, and plenty of other problems. Yes, during a first draft you should just write. However, that doesn’t mesh up with the thought that spelling and grammar are irrelevant, and it’s the editor’s job to fix it. Oftentimes the people who are saying “that’s your editor’s job” are nightmare clients no editor wants to touch because they send us their first drafts with the attitude that we don’t deserve our paycheck because we are “just fixing their spelling”. (Though that’s a different discussion.)

As writers, and professionals, we should push ourselves. Write fifty drafts if that’s what it takes (my novel baby is on round three), but don’t tell yourself that it’s the editor’s job to fix your poor, sloppy mistakes. By the time you send it to your editor it should be in the best condition you can make it. And if that condition is poorly-composed and full of mistakes then you should study the craft to improve because your money will be wasted. And I don’t mean “I bought this video game and didn’t like it” wasted, I mean “I could have bought a used car for this amount” wasted. A quality editor is going to cost you probably around $1,000 or more.

As with any art, the only way to learn is to practice and study. That means you need to work at what you do and dig into it to learn the nuances. Do you think Raphael became a master of chiaroscuro by just tossing things down on the canvas? No. He slaved over his art. And by slaved I mean all day every day under his teachers until he got it right. We don’t have that kind of dedication to the arts anymore, nor do most of us have that kind of time. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push your writing to the maximum and treat it as seriously as you can.

No, it’s not “the editor’s job” to do that learning for you. All you will accomplish is burning through your money, frustrating your editor, and not learning what you need to know. Spelling matters. Grammar matters. Craft matters. These are the foundation upon which your story is built, and without them you will have a vapid and half-baked piece of garbage no matter how good your ideas are.

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