So, yesterday I wrote half a chapter in my latest book. It started off as a bit of a rabbit trail off into an idea I’d been considering, but then took a rather long turn and wound up being somewhere around 1500-1800 words by the time I was done for the day. It was definitely longer than I wanted it to be, and in the end, took the characters in a direction that at this point I neither have time for nor want them to go.
Know what I did this morning? Deleted it.
Why? Cause honey badger editor don’t care.
For the uninitiated, honey badgers are listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Most Fearless animal and, besides having a family friendly documentary about them called Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem, rose to notoriety primarily through a far less family friendly internet video. Though I won’t share it here (it’s not hard to find), it does go to great lengths to talk about how the honey badger–who basically ignores bee stings and can nap off cobra venom–“don’t care.”
It is this attitude that I would submit is perhaps the healthiest for approaching editing. I don’t mean to say that in the sense of not caring about the quality of the story itself. I mean it in the sense that to truly achieve your best work, you must learn to be absolutely fearless.
Think of it this way: Your honey badger editor has only one goal in mind, to create the best possible work that your story can be, and true to real honey badgers, there is nothing, repeat nothing that is going to get in its way.
Have a character you really like but doesn’t add anything? Honey badger don’t care.
Have a turn of phrase you love but is confusing? Guess what? Honey badger don’t care.
If you find yourself wondering, “Can I save this? Can I keep it? Can I squeeze by even though it’s not great?” you might benefit more from a better question.
Does honey badger editor care about this phrase/character/my personal feelings about it if it gets in the way of its goal?
Answer: It doesn’t.
Learning to get over the sentimentality that so easily attaches itself to my work as a writer has been one of the most singularly freeing lessons I’ve ever had the great and terrible pleasure of learning. Remember, if you are bored with your work, if you feel it drags, if you question the importance of your characters/scenes/etc., your reader is not even close to as invested in those things you dread to remove as you are. Honey badger editor cares even less, because as harsh as he may seem making his own personal cocktail out of your blood, sweat and tears, you have to remember that his goal is first and foremost and above all else to tell a good story. Not only a good story, but the best story, the best version of your story, and no amount of whining, tears and defenses by you for the sake of keeping a darling is going to convince him that keeping in the tangential anecdote on page 33 is worth weighing down the infant wings of your little angel before it takes flight. The same is true for your beta-readers and ultimately, your real world readers, who despite their sometimes in your eyes hard critiques of your work are really after the same thing you are (perhaps even more so for their freedom from sentimentality): a good story.
So, does honey badger care about your hobby horses and/or unrelated personal sermons in your work? No.
Does honey badger care about worthless characters, poorly developed plot arcs or cluttered details? No.
Does honey badger care about your work being the best it can be, along with your potential army of readers and hopefully at their head, you? Yes. Yes they do, and you should definitely listen to them.