This month’s fiction therapy is a reply to a question from a member of the WU community, Nanette J. Purcigliotti.
I had edited some of Nanette’s work, and she had some questions afterwards, with concerns that I think many writers have about working with an editor. Here’s what she wrote:
“I thank you again for your revised suggestions. But they are your words, not mine. That doesn’t make me comfortable. How do I get around that?”
A fair question, I think, and I completely understand Nanette’s concern. Working with an editor means that some of that person’s suggestions, and even words, could make their way into your work, a work that is deeply personal to you. And this can be done to the point that it doesn’t feel like your words. I can get that, and I can understand that an author would be uncomfortable with that.
Here are a couple of sentences from Nanette’s text as an example of where she had this feeling. Please realize that these sentences are taken out of the context of the whole story, so they’re difficult to judge on their own:
Amanda’s mother appeared in the bedroom’s oak-wood doorframe. She tapped the right heel of her Jimmy Choo shoes, said to her fourteen-year-old daughter, “This is no time to daydream. You’re beginning a new term in a new school.”
And here are two of the revision suggestions I made.
 The word “appeared” is a little passive. This seems to be a no-nonsense character. I think she’d wake Amanda from her dream with a hard rap on the doorframe, making Amanda turn to see her mother.
 The phrase “said to her fourteen-year-old daughter” here looks like exposition, like this is information the author wants to tell the readers. It would be better to let this detail come out in the story more naturally. And the next sentence has the perfect opportunity as you could revise that to: “You’re starting eighth grade at a new school.” Or: “You’re fourteen now. You won’t be able to dream your way through your new school.”
Here is Nanette’s latest draft of these sentences after my suggestions: [Read more…]