You find yourself in a break away session at a writing conference. Five other writers sit with you and your group leader, a total of seven people. After some opening remarks, the group leader asks, “Who would you identify as a gifted writer and why?” She looks at you and says, “Why don’t we start with you?” What is your response?
Any number of favorite authors flood your mind. I might answer Barbara Kingsolver because of her strong verb choices. Or I might answer Jodi Picoult because of her style in presenting multiple views on controversial current issues. Or I might ask, “Can you come back to me?”
As I thought of this scenario, my mind raced to something I learned in two separate workshops, one with David James Duncan, the other with Bill deBuys. As writers, we must look at each sentence, each word, as a gift to our readers. We want to engage our readers, to entertain, to inform, to transport, whatever is appropriate for the type of writing we present.
The gift comes not just in the writing, but in the editing. We must go back over our work, time and time again. Each word must have meaning. Each scene must advance the story. We respect our readers, and keep them reading, by presenting our work as a gift, fit for only the most precious person.
Editing, therefore, constitutes both the gift (blessing) and the curse. If you have been writing for very long, you know this to be true. Editing is hard work, even harder than the writing. Does each word, each sentence, represent the best we have to offer? If not, we are not done editing.
Make a list of your top ten writers. Why do you enjoy their work? Think in varied terms: word choice, action scenes, short chapters, riveting dialogue, description, and others. How do you apply these elements of craft in your own writing?
Pick a paragraph of your own writing and edit it with one of the elements of craft you identified in mind. When you are done, compare the edited paragraph to the original. Better?
Happy writing… and editing…
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