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Writer or writing: Editor's Notes #248 See a mini sample edit
November 30, 2017
Hello,

The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high
and we miss it,
but that it is too low and we reach it.

—Michelangelo


In this issue:

1. See a mini sample edit
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt


1. See a mini sample edit
A great response to a writing prompt (http://www.writershelper.com/Editors_Notes-244.html) provided the material for this issue. With the writer’s permission, what follows is a sample edit on two sentences.

First, the text.
His cruelty was of the revealing variety. He would reveal more of himself with each act.
—M.M.


My comments as I would make them if she were a client instead of a subscriber:

Your first sentence is spine-tingling. This is the sort of writing I yearn for when I read, dense and descriptive. I can hardly wait for the next sentence.

On to sentence number two. Now my heart is broken. Instead of showing me how this cruelty is revealing, you’ve told me what you meant, and it turns out you didn’t mean much. Don’t get me wrong. I think you probably do mean much more, it’s just that what you wrote doesn’t give me more. I could argue that everyone reveals something through each act, so what you say is banal.

But it’s not the banality that disappoints as much as the telling. In many cases, showing is better, and this is definitely one of those cases. If you show, the banality disappears because you prove your case. How can you show the reader the cruelty and what it reveals? Some ideas: This could be the place you add some backstory with very brief instances of cruelty and what those instances revealed. Or your first sentence could be a tantalizing come-on that forces the reader to continue reading with the promise that instances of cruelty will reveal the character as he indulges in his particular vice throughout the story. Rest assured that your first sentence has stopped your reader is his or her tracks with its power, so you will not have to repeat this idea. A good reader will be watching carefully throughout the story for proof of what you’ve just said. Simply by eliminating the second sentence, you have created a compelling contract in which you offer the reader an unveiling. Absolutely splendid! Who could possibly stop reading?

My comments on my comments: Notice that I didn’t have to sort out grammar or spelling, things most people think of when they think of editing. For one thing, there is nothing technically wrong with the submission. But if this were part of a larger piece of writing, my advice to this writer, if taken, could be the difference between a yawn or a sudden pique of interest in a publisher. The writer composed the first excellent sentence without my help. That’s 100% down to her. And it’s a sentence to make anyone sit up and take notice. But the second sentence completely overrides the power of that first sentence. As an editor, I find gremlins like this and alert the writer.

Do you want to ensure your good writing doesn’t detract from your excellent writing? You can have your own sample edit at http://www.writershelper.com/sample-edit.html.

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2.Tickled my funnybone
From an advertisement: We exchange anything -- bicycles, washing machines, etc. Why not bring your spouse along and get a wonderful bargain?

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3. Interesting Web site
An good editor helps you become a better writer. There are things you can do, too. Here’s how to become really good at anything, including writing.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/tony-schwartz/six-keys-to-being-excelle_b_695333.html

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4. Writing prompt
Prunella was sad and lonely.

The sentence above tells. Sometimes, telling is fine, but in this exercise, I want you to show that Prunella is sad and lonely. You could take a whole novel to do this, but for this exercise, you get a maximum of thirty words (because it’s November 30).

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Link on LinkedIn https://ca.linkedin.com/in/audreyowen (Email me first so I know how you know me.)

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