2 months ago I wrote about my experiences as a guest fiction editor for a newer journal, Driftwood Press. At the end of that post, I referred to other kinds of editing I’ve done, adding that I would write at a later date about some of those experiences. Today, I thought I’d share about a wonderful editorial experience I had two summers ago.
One of my pastors, Austin Fischer, approached me about offering a critique of his manuscript. Even though it was already accepted for publication, he wanted someone to read it from a literary angle, to read it at the sentence level. Having the summer open in front of me, and interested in his project, I said yes.
For a few weeks I spent time in the world of his book, Young, Restless, and No Longer Reformed: Black Holes, Love, and a Journey In and Out of Calvinism. The first pass involved reading the book from beginning to end, leaving aside my Pilot G2 .07 black pen. As I read, I was absorbed in his story. It sure makes editing more meaningful when you’re genuinely interested in the writer’s work.
The second pass I read with my standard pen in hand, looking for ways in which the language might be improved, stylistic glitches might be remedied. Where might sentences be combined? Where might sentence patterns be varied? Where might there be crisper verbs, sharper nouns? How could I help Austin’s message be more clear?
I gave Austin my marked-up copy one Sunday after church, and we made plans to meet later that week after he read through my line edits. I recall a sunny morning where we sat outside at Starbucks. I was drinking black coffee. I shared some further observations about the book, and there was the pleasure as he offered me words of affirmation in what I provided. I knew my work was not only appreciated and valued; my suggestions moved something already good toward the great.
And in those ways, I felt less like a line editor and more like a writing coach. I believed in his book from my first read, and even after “marking it up,” I had a more profound admiration of what he was sharing in his story. I’ve told him that I’m ready for the next book, whenever he’s ready to write it.
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