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!