Wednesday, June 21, 2017

You Edited My Book? Guest post by Mike Ehret

Recently, I contributed a novella to “Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection.” Seven of us—including Linda Yezak!—participated and we had a blast! My story, “Big Love,” introduces two people involved in building tiny houses who come together in a surprising way:

Berly Charles remembers the days before her father was a successful business tycoon in Indianapolis, Ind. Growing up a razor’s edge from homelessness planted a tiny desire for home in her heart that she now fills for others by building their tiny home ideals. 
Nathan “Rafe” Rafferty is a writer for a nationally recognized architecture journal who is used to calling his own shots. When he gets assigned to cover a new trend—tiny houses—the idea makes him furious. Could it be because it reminds him of when he and his mother had to live in a lean-to shack under a railroad trestle in Indianapolis? 
Homelessness expanded her world and constricted his. Now she needs his help, but he only remembers the pain. Can they find big love in a tiny house?

So that’s the story I wrote. And it was perfect. I sent it off to Linda for editing, content in knowing that while she might find an occasional typo or missing word, extensive editing was not needed. After all, I am an editor myself. (I’m trying not to break my arm patting myself on the back.)

But—and I’m not sure exactly how this happened—when I received my manuscript back from Linda, she had edits. On every page.

No, really. The book was FULL of them.

She called me “dash happy” and even questioned my parentage! Apparently, writing—like—William Shatner talks—is—a little—too much—style. And I guess I prefer the British spellings of certain words to the less colourful American spellings. So kill me.

But then it got worse.

Linda Yezak—bless her heart!—said I wrote a cliché. Or, maybe, several of them. Land o’ Goshen! That woman couldn’t see the forest for the trees. She left no stone unturned trying to ferret out clichés. In a nutshell, at the end of the day, even though she was bold as brass, Linda was right (that hurts) because two wrongs don’t make a right and two (or more) clichés don’t make great sentences. Am I right?

Here is another thing Linda suggested I fix in “Big Love.”

A good editor walks the line between suggesting improvements and making improvements. In this example, Linda suggested that she thought I could do a better job showing Rafe’s evolving feelings for Berly. She was right. Here’s the original:

He opened his file for another review of his research and was gripped again by her eyes in the IBJ portrait piece—as well as the playfulness of the pose. The photographer had shot her as Rosie the Riveter, only she had a hammer in her hands. It was cute. Very cute. 

Linda underlined "was gripped again by" and commented, "I bet you can find a better way to do that."

So, here's the fix from the final manuscript:

He opened his file for another review of his research and saw Timberly’s portrait again. Those eyes. So deep and sparkling with playfulness. The photographer had shot her as Rosie the Riveter, only she had a hammer in her hands. It was cute. And charming.  
In the first—“was gripped again by her eyes”—is narrative telling. The second—“Those eyes. So deep and sparkling with playfulness”—is deeper POV showing. The reader sees Berly’s eyes from Rafe’s point of view, not mine.

Linda, like any fine editor, took my story, in my voice, and showed me ways to improve it—make it stronger. That is the benefit of a great editor. And that is why we all need them. Even me.

Michael Ehret has accepted God's invitation to write with Him and is also a freelance editor at In addition, he's worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal magazine for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), was editor-in-chief of the Christian Writers Guild, and he pays the bills as a marketing communications writer. Michael sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star.

He’s been married for 36 years to Deb and they have three children, one dog (a miniature Schnauzer named Baxter), and a granddog. Since he writes fiction by the seat of his pants, who knows what’s next?

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