Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cut the Clutter


                                                  Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto


My novel in progress has received a great shot in the arm. Hiring an editor to help with the finishing process has been an enlightening and rewarding experience.  Some pages of the manuscript have few needed changes, and some have more, but each and every suggestion is thrilling. Is that an odd word choice? No. The suggestions give me goose bumps. My editor is a really good writer, and every line her pencil has drawn is an improvement. So many sentences slated for change, are ones that I struggled with and re-wrote time and time again. In some cases, I have eliminated them, making short work of the problem.

Four Stanley Cups and a Funeral, is a novel about a quest for identity, set  in a very male arena.  In a family torn apart by conflict, defined by winning and losing, a starstruck dreamer comes of age, seeking redemption. Lessons have been learned and grief has run its course. I would recommend the memoir form, or as in my case, an autobiographical novel, to anyone who wants to make sense of their life and times. While I would not venture to say the process has left me older and wiser, I can say it has left me older. The countless hours I have spent recalling snippets of dialog from loved ones who no longer walk upon this earth has left me with greater gratitude and affection than ever before.

Reading my work with the editor's marks has taught me more about myself than I imagined it would. The editor's skill with the language has filled me with awe. She has added better words! She told me to be judicious with exclamation points! Who could ask for more? She has also reigned in my overblown enthusiasm, my too often repeated phrases, and spiffed up idioms passed along incorrectly through the generations. Writers tend to speak of editors in glowing terms. They thank them profusely when the work reaches the published form.

You can only do so much by yourself. No matter how well you did in school, or how praised your writing has been, you may have developed appalling habits over time. I know I did. Like golfers, tennis pros, or professionals of all kinds, we can all benefit from an unjaundiced eye. Yes, a friend can proofread the manuscript, but an editor can do so much more. Don't hesitate to seek help. If your work is accepted and another editor comes on board, so much the better. It is the editors who choose to take on the work of getting a manuscript to publications. Spare them the tedious, obvious line editing, and let them get to what they do best. I, for one, am hooked on the process.

3 comments:

Jennifer Rova said...

Great post full of hard won wisdom we all need.

Beth Bollinger said...

I'm excited for you! I hope my brief foray into writing about skaters (still an unfinished project) helped nudge you along this path.

Elizabeth S. Brinton said...

Thank you Beth and Jennifer. Skating and writing both afford lessons in humility.