The slightly grizzled and bow-legged author of multiple Western novels filed none of the rough edges from his words: “If you can’t stand being edited, you’ve got no business being a writer.”
I’d never attended a writing conference before, but I paid attention. So, I noticed, did even the veteran writers. Authors, especially new ones, are sensitive about editing—and that may be the understatement of the century.
In the art of writing—fiction or non—stories are conceived and birthed in the soul as surely and painfully as a child develops and emerges from its mother. Editors’ decisions to cut and rearrange words can make a writer respond as a mother would to a doctor’s suggestion that he cut off a toe or place the ear of her perfect newborn on its elbow instead. Alas, a writer (if he wants to stay published) has no choice but to work through the pain. It diminishes over time.
I recall the final draft an editor returned after my initial article sale to Reader’s Digest. (The king of condensation, remember?) The story had run over five thousand words. It came back about half. My father’s favorite curse (Yawmer Yooks!) seemed far too insipid, though repeated loudly and rapidly it worked. I realized then that if I wanted to continue writing for the Digest (and I did, for several years) I’d need to put both ego and gentle editing aside.
A good editor has one goal—to help move the story forward. But the beguiling temptation of the wordsmith is to ramble, to use far too many words, to wander on, to take the circuitous route. Who, me?
“Sorry, Kathleen, but that’s the brutal nature of my job,” one of my first editors told me when I protested that he’d cut out the best part out of my work. I learned to trust his objectivity. To my surprise, the writing read better post-slash, even with the “best parts” gone.
As a writer of faith, I’ve learned that strong editing assists me in carrying out my mandate—to present to my readers the best possible words in the best possible way, for the best possible effect and the best possible reason—the glory of God.
An effective life too, requires stringent editing. But oh, how we protest the “slashing of the fat” when our Divine editor’s knife trims close to the bone; when he allows the loss of our most beloved life story-lines—a marriage, health, a comfortable lifestyle, a loved one. How we squirm and plead for our own stories back. And how we must learn to be still and pray…
Lord, teach us to hold our lives as loosely as we must learn to hold our words. Trim us for the best possible reason, that your story may shine through us—for your glory alone.
Author Kathleen Gibson lives in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Find her online at www.kathleengibson.ca.
Practice by Practice – A collection of short and timeless writings that will delight, inspire, and inform your faith. More details and purchase (in Canada) at Word Alive Purchase internationally through Amazon.com or other Amazon sites.