I used to be a fifth grade teacher and was responsible for teaching every subject. And I mean EVERY subject. Drug Education? Yep. Sex Education? Oh yeah. (That was me at the front of the room blushing as I pointed to diagrams of reproductive organs. And believe me, many of those moments have ended up in my books.)
My favorite subject to teach, though, was creative writing. It always astounded me that the school system would actually pay me to teach writing (creatively) on a daily basis. What cooler way to spend my time!?
I created a huge poster that I proudly displayed at the front of my classroom with the steps of the writing process: Write, Rewrite, Edit and Revise. I touted the joys of rewriting their stories and even explained that I would only use a green pen when critiquing their work because I didn’t want them to ever see red on their writing. Red meant “stop,” but green always meant “go” and I wanted them to “go even farther” whenever they saw my green marks on their paper.
My students often responded to my soliloquies on the joys of editing with a resounding, “Um…huh?”
When they finished a story, they would bring it to me and I would mark it up with my green pen and say, “Go forth, oh lucky one! You now have the honor of moving on to Step 2: Rewrite!” I would go back to my corner and twirl, and my students would hang their heads and slowly scuffle back to their desks mumbling something similar to, “Bummer.”
So now that the tables have turned, and I am the one writing stories, I often wonder if I, too, would hang my head and scuffle when asked to rewrite my work. Well, this week, I was given that opportunity.
An editor who read one of my manuscripts asked for a revision. My immediate reaction was a bit like my ten-year old students’. “Bummer.” But when I thought more on the revision and looked carefully at how it would enhance the book, my reaction changed to, “Wow.”
The revision was exactly what my book needed. It was like a puzzle piece that fit in with a satisfying “click.” Aaaahhh. Just right. And then I found my reaction turning to that of, “Doh! Why didn’t I think of that!? Of course!”
But I think that’s what editors are for. Editing! And the magic they bring to a manuscript is just as important to the process as the writing itself.
So for now, I will work through the 4-step process of writing. And I’ll use my green pen with care. And I’ll respond to my husband who would like the dishes done with a resounding, “Um…huh?”