the stranger

i’ve been edited before but not like this. i’ve learned a lot about craft, much more than i anticipated.

my editor, Sean Virgo, pointed out my tics (in that moment), lazy phrasings (consistently describing characters by their eye colour), and repetitions of indirections (think, wonder, consider). the indirections, the indirections! his ability to hold eleven stories in his head and remember them in such detail was amazing.

but editing is an intimate act. a little painful. i was in the hands of a surgeon and he performed abdominal surgery; he poked around and rearranged my guts. the end result is a collection that stands. and i’m healing. all systems go.

here’s what Zadie Smith says about writers editing their work:

You need a certain head on your shoulders to edit a novel, and it’s not the head of a writer in the thick of it, nor the head of a professional editor who’s read it in twelve different versions. It’s the head of a smart stranger who picks it off a bookshelf and begins to read. You need to get the head of that smart stranger somehow. You need to forget you ever wrote that book.

are you a stranger to your work?