Last weekend I was privileged to present a workshop on “editing for submission” at our annual His Imprint Christian Writing Conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I used an idea from a workshop I’d attended at the InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship in Wetaskiwin, Alberta this past September, and revised it for my purposes (with permission from the original presenter, Susan Roberts Plett).
The objective of the class was to help participants understand the rationale behind editors’ decisions so writers could learn to submit more successfully. For the first few minutes we discussed the importance of editing as well as practical ideas about how to implement effective edits before submission. In the second portion of the class, I distributed packets of submissions I had gathered—articles, short stories, inspirational thoughts and poems—tweaked to fit my purposes (again, with the permission of the original authors), and a brief list of guidelines to work from. The participants’ job was to choose the best prose and poetry under the specific guidelines, and to do so in a limited time and for a limited print space.
As the participants shuffled through the packets, the rustle of paper and the occasional soft self-whispers floated to me like music: the music of the working writer. To those of us who have given ourselves to the world of words and the expression of ideas, the rustles and whispers are a sweet counterpoint to the clacking of keys or the scratch of a pen. We hear the heart of the universe in the semi-silence.
Writers are a breed apart from the ordinary man or woman. We breathe the same air and walk the same ground, but our heads are often caught in a world between, one of shifting papers, scampering words and phrases, constantly changing manuscripts, new and creative ideas. In the words of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau, “If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away.”
For me, the take-away value of the workshop was the connection of minds in the room, the realization of sharing time and talents with kindred souls, and that we work to the subtle sound of rustles and whispers.