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On Being Edited

Samantha Wheeler's Blog

Image credit: 123RS.

So you need something drop dead gorgeous for the ball? Something to really impress? You don’t go shopping with hubby … he’d rather be watching the footy right? And you don’t take your mum … she thinks you look great in everything. The reverse is true for your teenage daughter. She thinks you look terrible in everything. The best person for the job is …your fashion conscious, honest to a tee, girly best friend.

Together you’ll wade through the junk. Discard anything that shows off your nasty lumps and bumps or hides any assets you have left. You pull out the gems from the murky clothes racks and accessorise till they shine. Not too much bling, just enough. By the time the two of you finish, you’ll look divine. You’ll be so proud of yourself, you’ll start to wonder why you had doubts in the first place. And when it comes to the big night, you’ll be divine!

And so it is when you work with an editor.

Unlike your mum, she doesn’t love everything you write. Unlike hubby, she doesn’t get distracted and wander off to check the game score. And unlike the teenager (and some more ruthless critiquing groups), she’s kind and tactful with her comments.

Book with writing

Image credit: 123RS.

That’s not to say at first her comments don’t hurt like hot wax ripped from your upper lip. Sharp and painful, instantly swelling to red. But when the pain settles, you realise – wow, she was right! I do say ‘gasp’ and ‘hug’ and ‘smile’ a million times in one paragraph. And I do have too many physical reactions all centred around the heart.

And like your girly best friend who just told you your boobs looked flat in that, you need good advice. Just as you don’t want to arrive half baked at the ball, you don’t want your book to arrive in the hands of your readers half written.

Personally I loved being edited. Smooch & Rose was a much longer book when I first showed it to the publishers at UQP, and with their help I cut it virtually in half. That meant not only half the word count, but half the characters and half the sub plots too.

But what I loved the best was finding out about my habits and micro-writing style. Not using the same word again in the next sentence seems so obvious, but is something you miss when editing yourself. Using repeated physical reactions is another habit I was glad to have corrected. And then those movements and feelings that seem obvious to you, but aren’t to anyone else. Like where is that character now? Is she still on the floor, or has she got up? She’s been down there an awfully long time!

So if you’re wondering what it’s like to work with an editor, just think of the ball. Wouldn’t you rather be wearing the perfect gown? And really shine when your moment in the spotlight arrives? That’s a big fat Greek wedding dress ‘Yes’ from me!

New to writing? Consider these resources

About Samantha Wheeler

Australian Children's Writer.

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