Sunday, May 31, 2015

writing what disturbs you

I'm in the process of editing ten chapters contributed by friends and family that will appear in my WIP, titled "Ten Faces of Faith." All of them agreed to write out their stories for me, although none of them is a "writer" and I have asked them to do the hardest thing I know.

I have asked each of them to revisit a painful episode in their lives (the death of a loved one, a terminal diagnosis, the descent into addiction, among others) and how it affected their faith. It forces them to relive the pain, to describe it, and to interpret it for the rest of us. It asks them to re-examine their relationship with God and to reflect on the purpose and meaning of pain in our lives. Not an easy thing to put into words.

So now I'm sitting in the editor's seat for my own book...even though I don't have an MFA in anything. Nevertheless, I am aware of some of the literary conventions that hound contemporary writers, so I have been busy correcting the double spaces between sentences, and eliminating adjectives, adverbs, passive verbs, and exclamation points. I have been correcting spelling and usage errors. And I have been polishing the prose.

I hope they don't take offense when I hand them my rewrites. They'll have to learn to surrender to the new rules of writing the way I dideven though I may not have agreed with them at first. I had to train myself to avoid the beautiful, elaborate, flowery language I love. I had to retrain my ear to appreciate the rhythm and flow of a sentence in its crisp, clear form. I had to learn to show rather than tell. None of which they have the vaguest clue about.

I'll tell them that the changes I made were not my idea, that this is how it's done nowadays. Things have changed. If I don't do it someone else will...but they won't be as kind about it as I will be.

My greatest challenge is to restate their stories without misinterpreting their words, or misrepresenting their emotional/psychological/spiritual journey, or violating their trust. That's the hardest part in all of this, and it's the most important.

What is the hardest thing you've ever written? What is your story?
"Tell me your story,
show me your wounds,
and I'll show you what Love sees
when Love looks at you.
Hand me the pieces,
broken and bruised,
and I'll show you what Love sees
when Love looks at you."
~Mac Powell~
~from "When Love Sees You"~
People around here are starting to complain about the heat and humidity. I tell them I'm just happy to have thawed out...


  1. The fact that you take this responsibilty so seriously is why your ten contributors trust you with their stories. I'm sure you will do your usual excellent job with the editing.