Monday, June 27, 2011

The Joy of Working with Editors

I spent this morning and most of yesterday going through the comments and suggestions two editors made on two different texts of mine. The first piece was an essay that has been around for a while, that I had worked on many times, and that was already pretty polished. And yet, this editor found spots to prod for more emotion: “Something about how the narrator feels witnessing this?” Or more specificity:
My original line: “…the gastroenterology cubicle where Harry lies groggy from the anesthesia.”
Editor’s comment: “Something extra here? Something even more concrete?”
My rewrite: “…the gastroenterology cubicle where Harry lies under several cotton blankets. His bed is elevated so its railing reaches my chest. His forehead glistens; his voice is thick as he says: “Hi.”
The jury is, of course, still out on whether this rewrite is any better. Let me know what you think!
The second piece I reworked with an editor’s help was an article for a parenting magazine that I wrote last week, based on a bunch of interviews. It was a first draft, and so my colleague, who edited it, gave it back with a lot of “red,” i.e. lots of changes and comments. As I went through it, I accepted almost all of her changes because she truly ironed out my clunky wording and cumbersome phrasing. Then I printed it out for a final review, found some more phrases I could cut et voilà, a streamlined article that is 200 words shorter than the first draft.
Through all of this I was reminded again what a joy and what a privilege it is to have someone pay that much attention to your writing, and work that hard to improve it. I am always amazed just how much an editor’s probing can make my work so much better. So here’s a big thank you to two wonderful editors!


  1. Thank you!!! That's so sweet. When I used to do edting I felt it was such a thankless job... until I found some editors I really trusted and then I realized how much we love them!

  2. Working with editors is fun. They see your work in a different light and can really help shape it into an even better version of what it was.

  3. I love editing, my own work and others. I'm currently editing a YA novel, and I love seeing the various shapes it takes through each edit. The author has a magnificent story, and I feel like I have a small part in making it better.

    Still, I told her she has to go with her gut in the end. My edits are suggestions. The editor for my novel said the same thing, and it made me feel empowered (but I usually went with him).

    I think both lines above are good, but I'd need to see the lead up and follow to know which was magic.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Editors are wonderful! As for your paragraph- I liked the re write a lot - it made me 'see' what was going on in the cubicle. It made me feel more as though I was right there.

  5. My experience with editors has made me think they may not really be human. After all they can re-write my article, take out the crap and act like it's better. My steaming crap has emotion attached to it and I usually feel a little miffed. I'm sure there are sensitive editors who discuss things with the writers, but so far I have not had the luxury of meeting them. Of course, now that I'm working on my first novel, an editor will have to discuss their deletions and I'm excited about the future arguments I feel are looming on the horizon. :)

  6. Meidele - no, thank you!

    Kelly - exactly, they see it in a differnt light.

    Tia - glad to hear you've had good experiences with editing, both being edited and doing it for someone else.

    Anjuli - thanks for your feedback. I think it's more visual, too. We shall see!

    The Desert Rocks - sorry to hear you've had bad experiences with editors. I'm sure we all get to experience the not so pleasant side of this eventually. So far I've been lucky.

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