My manuscript has come back from my editor. We’ve talked on the phone about her comments and my vision for the book. An editor moves you toward a goal of incorporating new and better writing. Someone reads your work and offers objective criticism based, hopefully, on their own experience as a professional in the writing business. She wants to see this expanded, that delved into. My editor, although not a writer herself, comes from a solid background of working with Big Five publishers and authors from diverse backgrounds.
A writer, if she’s smart, profits from criticism. After receiving her developmental edit, I began to revise, combine chapters, add new writing to my novel, tentatively titled Ava’s Story: A Woman Alone. One of her criticisms that Ava seemed too focused on her relationships with men, made me smile. As an older widowed woman, Ava had dipped a toe more than once into the dating pool and knew widows and divorcees talking about relationships. But also, because my editor is married, we laughed that sometimes she envies her single friends. She wants to know more about the life of single mother, of woman alone. She wants more of Ava. “There’s a fine line,” she said, “between a character feeling loneliness, yet her strength admired by the reader.”
Her observation that the spiritual seeking side of Ava needs greater exploration resonated. I look forward to developing this aspect of Ava’s journey as a woman who ponders the “exciting sea change” that comes with reflection and a rich inner life.
An editor needs to offer encouragement. “Overall, I really enjoyed reading this,” she wrote. “You have a wonderful voice and are an extremely talented writer.” Several sections of the novel, dealing with a friend’s Alzheimer’s and Ava’s childhood, she labeled “exquisite writing.” She added: “This story will surely touch many readers grappling with love and loss, aging and the search for meaning in this life.” I breathed a sigh of relief. When it comes to editing, all of us feel a bit like beginners.
Which brings me to our Women’s Writing Circle last weekend, much of which centered on the craft of writing, while offering validation. Difficulties, longing, loss, grief and joy beckon as we row on in what is often a healing journey, and a creative pleasure. Readback lines to the writer, what resonated, yes, this is a form of editing. It’s a commitment to the craft to take the risk … to read our work, or have another read it. Through the magic of the writing practice we develop stories to their fullest potential. As our writers did, a writer moves toward those moments of being that lead to understanding life by putting pen to paper … writing a poem about autumn leaves, a reflection on a September day at the beach with only waves and no swimmers, growing up in Pittsburgh with its empty manufacturing sites and silent smokestacks. Or for me, revising a novel where a woman remembers a rainy day at the library with her father. These moments where life and art come together offer the magic of the writing practice.
How about you? Do you have an editing experience you can share?