Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It's great to be edited (and I mean, I'M being edited)

If I've ever worked with you on a story through revision after revision, and you were like, 'Dang, I thought I was done!,' I just want you to know that right now, I'm in your shoes.

I've been working with my wife on what would be a picture book for young grade-school kids about a matter of great import: What would happen if the Tooth Fairy ever met the Easter Bunny while they were making their rounds.* (This is fiction. I have not been staking out little kids' houses the night before Easter to do research.)

Both Betsy, my wife, and Buffy have been my editors on this. I wrote it a while back and sent it to them for a read. I figured I was done. Great sense of accomplishment; I'd taken an idea and actually created a beginning-to-end conflict/resolution story that, by God, wasn't half bad.

And then Betsy and Buffy weighed in. And I revised it. And they suggested things. And I revised. And so on ... and this morning I finished probably the 10th revision of the story. (And it still needs work.)

It is now so different, and so much better, than it was the first time I put it down, I can hardly imagine why I thought I was done. But that, I realized, is what a writer/editor relationship is all about -- the writer creates and the editor helps see around the corners the writer can't see around when he/she is writing.

It's a great learning experience for me to be on the other side of that equation. In the last edit, for example, Buffy even flagged me on using 'ing' verbs instead of 'ed' verbs ... which is something I am attuned to as an editor but something I missed in my own work as a writer.

Betsy, who used to be an early childhood teacher and can tune in to the frequencies used by little kids, has helped me with the tone of the story -- that is, making it more silly. Once during revisions, I had to think long and hard about the weighty issue of what, exactly, a rabbitt would exclaim upon bashing into a fairy; and what a fairy would say at the same moment.

I know all this work will make me a better writer; I'm hoping it makes me a better editor too.

*You're welcome to read it if you want.


  1. I know what you mean. I see stuff in the teens' writing that I completely miss in my own. That's why I am always happy for a good editor. I think no matter how experienced of a writer you are, the nature of writing and revising keeps you from seeing the forest for the trees sometimes.

    (Well, maybe not when I have to do a complete overhaul, but I know it's for the story's good.)

  2. Betsy's right about the frequencies kids use. It's tough to translate what you think would be silly to what they actually think is silly. But it's a fun exercise. One that we know Buffy is fully capable of doing on a daily basis. As maddening as it can be to go back and re-work something when you think it's done -- I always feel like when I'm editing someone's copy for those types of details, that they've given me a really solid base and I refining it is just fun, not tedious.