I’m on vacation this week and re-running a couple of my favorite posts. Today Southern Fried Fiction author Ane Mulligan visits In The Edit. Enjoy!
In these posts, with the author’s permission, I look at their work pre-editing and post-editing—and at what I did to improve the piece. The idea is to catch a glimpse into not only the editing process, but the relationship between editor and author.
I’ve known Ane Mulligan, the author of Southern Fried Fiction, since 2004 when we both attended our first American Christian Fiction Writers conference. I had arrived a day early and was bored. We met when I followed the sound of her laughter to where she was volunteering. Yes, she roped me into volunteering as well. We’ve been friends since.
She is now the humor columnist for the ACFW Journal (The Nutty Novelist) and I have the pleasure of editing her columns each issue. Today’s post looks at her first ACFW Journal contribution, “A 12-Step Program for Writers.”
My prime directive as an editor is: “First, do no harm.” That means whenever possible, allow the writer his or her voice. But it is also my job to make the writer look good, to enhance the reader’s experience, and to fix errors.
In Ane’s column (see the unedited version), my main objectives were to:
- Increase the connection to her main theme of writing as an addiction
- Smooth out some areas by providing transition language
- Since the ACFW Journal is primarily a teaching magazine, provide a clear break between the humor and reader application
I took the approach that the column was an introduction Ane would give if she were at her proposed recovery program. So I changed the intro slightly to reflect that. Then, in the fourth paragraph, I added some language that seemed both funnier and more in line with the addiction theme.
In the fourth through sixth paragraphs, I wanted just a touch of desperation as Ane recounted how her addiction worsened. Up to this point, it’s all told in Ane’s first person voice. In the eighth paragraph, I enhanced her natural turn toward reader application. And in the 12 steps themselves, shifted completely to a “you,” or instructional, focus.
Ane, thanks for letting me use you as an example!
If you would like to see your writing in a future In The Edit post, send a maximum of 350 words to opusmle (at) gmail (dot) com. Please send in Word format (.doc). If I use it, you are eligible for a 25 percent discount on any editing services.
Michael Ehret, for Writing On The Fine Line