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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Getting a taste of the writer's challenge

Last night I printed off a draft of a story I'm working on for my husband to read. It was 2,000 words and needed to be shaved down to about 1,200. He balked at first. "I'm not a journalist, what would I know about what needs to be cut?"

"Just give it a read and see where there are places that don't move the story forward," I told him, with pleading eyes.

I've never asked this of him before, but this story is for a new (to me) national market and I really needed someone to give me another perspective. I know he's very interested in the subject, so I felt he was the perfect first reader. Well, there's that and the fact that I've threatened on occasion to leave him out of my book acknowledgments (when I eventually write a book) because he never reads what I write.

He was a captive audience and I took advantage. I'll hand you your dinner when you read my draft.

Immediately he started in and noticed a missing word or two. I handed him a red pen and the power that comes whence. He kept shaking his head and I'll admit I was worried. When he finished he said, "I don't know how you're going to cut this. Everything flows and it all seems to be so important to the story."

Welcome to my world, to the journalist's world. Where half is the most we are permitted sometimes.

He was good at identifying main themes in the story and really good and picking up those missed words (a, is, in, etc.), the ones we tend to lose when our fingers and brains move too quickly.

I was glad to have his comments. But I still needed to make cuts. So I slept on the story and ripped into it again today. It was tough, but there's a point in rewriting when you're less sympathetic to your own writing, but only a tiny bit and only because you eventually want to be finished with the story.

When he called I was just finishing the final touches. I read it to him over the phone. "What did you cut? It sounds like you didn't lose anything?"

That, my dear, is the point.

Word of the day
riposte: a retaliatory verbal sally

7 comments:

Jill said...

Verbal sally indeed. :)

GREAT illustration about getting rid of darlings and such. You inspire as always.

Wendy Hoke said...

My neck is killing me, I'm suffering from eye strain, my neighbors are all sharing cocktails, the kiddies are playing in the gorgeous sunshine and I'm sitting here working. AM I NUTS?

Jill said...

It will all be over any minute now...:)

And if it makes you feel better, I AM working on that fellowship draft as I type. Sent in a piece on Passover to About.com an hour ago. :)

You are not alone in your nuttiness.

Meg said...

You sound like a great editor. Will you help me with my piece? Maybe we could meet next week and I'll buy you a cocktail!

Wendy Hoke said...

You're on for the cocktail. I'll provide whatever insight I can with the editing. Of course, I'm still working on mine. :)

Becky said...

It always helps to have another set of eyes on your writing, professional editor or not. I do much better editing others' work ... it's always more difficult doing my own. ;-)

Wendy Hoke said...

I couldn't agree more, Becky!