In these posts, with the author’s permission, we look at their work pre-editing and post-editing—and at what I did to improve the piece.This week’s edit comes to you courtesy of Larry Timm. Larry is fairly new to writing, but certainly not to communicating. He’s been a pastor for many years and, in addition to his pastoring duties, is now turning his hand to fiction.
Larry contributed this piece to the April issue of ACFW Journal for our “This Writer’s Journey” feature. I could not have been more pleased with it. It perfectly set the tone for that feature.
Today we’ll look at the just the first 350 words or so of his 900+ piece. If you want to read the rest of it, download the sample issue of ACFW Journal.
Some issues I addressed with this piece were:
- Unnecessary details
- Slight rearrangements to add to the emotion/humor
- Upping the angst caused by hitting Send
There’s a fine line between adding enough details that the reader can visualize the scene and adding so many details that they distract from the experience. In Larry’s piece, for instance, did the reader need to know in the lead graf that Larry raised his “left index finger” and his “quivering right hand”?
I didn’t think so. For me, it was enough to know that it was his finger and his quivering hand. The quivering was important, because it added to the tone and the emotional buy-in.
Tie in the reader
One thing Larry did well in this piece was engage his reader. There were a few places I thought he could do this better through some pacing shifts and some language enhancements.
In paragraphs 2-4, he had the right stuff, but some judicious editing gave it a bit more oomph.
In the third graf, I thought it would be good to stress the instantaneous nature of sending a proposal through email. So, bookended with em-dashes, I added, “is probably already there.” These four words plant in the reader’s mind the fear Larry was feeling. What’s done is done and can’t be undone.
Then I added a quick reminder of the need for extra oxygen. “A couple more quick breaths” reminds the reader that Larry’s breathing heavily—hyperventilating, even.
More angst, please
Before Larry moves into his daydream about being arrested by the FBI for impersonating a writer, I created some room—and a subhead—to allow those paragraphs to have more impact.
And I made the language more consistent with the FBI—which likely wouldn’t use sledgehammers to break into his home.
I don’t want Larry merely imagining and visualizing these things, I want him seeing them and living them in his overactive writer’s imagination. So I made changes in paragraph six to reflect that.
One last thing: I loved Larry’s joke line, delivered by his wife on Oprah’s TV show, “No, they won’t let him write.” Hilarious! But I felt he gave away the impact with his “nudge, wink” line that followed, “Oooooof course not.” In humor, it’s best not to explain the joke, and always avoid what I call over-spelling.
Larry, thanks for joining me In The Edit today.
Would you like to see your writing in a future In The Edit? Submit a short writing sample as a Word document. If I use it, you’ll be eligible for a 10-percent discount on any editing services.