Most of the major editing work I’ve done in my life has been of my own work or educational work. Neither of those types of editing is particularly fun, but both have been necessary.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to help a friend with some editing work on her book. Now, this was not even close to typical editing. You see, my friend is an artist (an amazing one!), and she is working on a how-to draw book. I can’t say anything beyond that for now, but believe me when I say there is no one better suited for this particular book.
Going into it, I thought, wow, this will be fun, a little tweak here and there and it’ll be good. I was right and wrong. It WAS a lot of fun, but it was nothing like I expected. We worked all evening, past midnight, and didn’t even get through all the spreads.
This was such a completely different experience than anything I have done before. My friend is an artist, not a writer, so she looks at things in different ways. And she’s not a bad writer. Not in the least. She has this amazing quality to her writing, almost an ethereal tone, that really sets it apart from what could be a dry, uninspiring step-by-step instructional book. The trick was working the words to keep that special voice intact, while painting a word picture worthy of her work. It was incredibly rewarding to take those beautiful strings she had already created and weave them together into a rich tapestry.
As we were working, I realized that drawing and writing, while different ways of expressing creativity, are similar in many ways. While my friend talked about creating balance in her art, I talked about creating a balance in words, a symmetry in sentences. There is beauty in taking words, ideas, phrases, and crafting them, molding them into the perfect order so that they flow and evoke the expected emotions. Long, flowery sentences will create a different feeling than short, choppy ones, just as long, light brush strokes display a different atmosphere than quick, slashing ones.
We also discussed our subjects, and how in many cases they control us more than we control them. I have mentioned this before, but it was so interesting to talk about it with someone whose medium is visual art instead of words. Before having the discussion, I would have (naively) assumed that an artist can create whatever they want, that while they may put their emotion on the canvas, they are still the creator. Isn’t that funny, considering my insistence that I have very little to do with the choices my own characters make? But it makes total sense. To me, anyway. My friend said that she may have an idea, as I do when I am creating a character, but there is a moment where the subject takes over, actually becomes to the point that they are moving the artist, instead of the other way around. And, as with me and writing, if she attempts to force her art to be what it isn’t, it comes across as stiff and forced.
It was an intense night, a fun night, and an eye-opening night. I am honored to be given the chance to work on something so amazing, and it makes me excited for time when I will be working on official edits for my own book. Until then, I will continue to open my eyes and my mind to all the other ways that seemingly “different” worlds are intertwined. Turns out, we’re not so different after all.