• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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You Are So Beautiful To Me

I did two very close line edits over the last few weeks, a novel and a memoir. They were both quite brilliant in their own right and as a result the editing was a pure joy. There were many books I’ve had to work on over the years where the prose was less than stellar. I used to compare editing those books to correcting papers, catching the same predictable mistakes over and over again.



When you have the chance to edit something you believe to be brilliant, the pencil comes alive in your hand. You engage in a dialogue in the margins of the page that becomes an intricate and intimate dance. You feel smarter, you may actually be smarter, because you are inspired. And because you don’t have to worry about big things, your attention is more finely tuned and with each suggestion, even as small as a word change,  you see the thing more fully realized, elevated, nailed. 

There is nothing more satisfying than fine tuning.

Well, a few exceptions come to mind, but this is not an x-rated blog.

6 Responses

  1. I have a question. Do the writers ever argue with you about your suggestions? Is it a backward and forward process, like collaboration? I think I would be an editor’s nightmare.

    • I’ve always found that I had a high percentage of agreement with my editing, which probably explains why I loved it and continued to pursue the work/craft. I’ve heard lots of editors say they are satisfied if a writer takes 50% of their edits. I think some authors bristle at every suggestion. Most writers bristle at first. It’s tough seeing someone get inside your work. But most writers usually come around and find good editing to be deeply useful and benefits their books.Though, the way an editor conveys her desire for a change goes a long way in persuading or detracting a writer. Sorry to be sexist here, but I’ve always found men to be more defensive and resistant. Nabokov responded to edits with a “thunderous stet.” As he should have.

  2. […] 6:57 pm | In blogging, links, writing | Leave a Comment Tags: blogging (subtitle – Letter To Betsy) defined as – someone who asserts that Goethe did not write enough and who insists like […]

  3. I love the notion of someone getting inside my work. I love it when a reader finds something that I didn’t plan. I love it when a critic says, “it would be stronger / clearer / easier if…” Even in the critique groups and classes I’ve been in, the edits almost always strengthen my work. I wish I could channel that wisdom in the first place, all the time. I’m so glad you get to like, even love what you do.

  4. I am reading your book The Forest for the Trees and I it has given me so much helpful information. Many discussions with my husband and son have arisen because of the many insightful topics your book covers. One particular conversation with my son has left me a bit deflated because he does not want the world (I should be so lucky) to know my closet full of skeletons and thus expose him to embarrassment. After the conversation, I decided to continue my writing, and I thank you for your book. It is though, you have read my thoughts, dreams and anxieties about all the things that I have been going through since I discovered my love of reading and writing and why I do. I do not feel quite so strange or out of place lately. Thank you Betsey Lerner!!!

  5. Being edited by someone who knows what they’re doing and loves your book is one of the most wonderful things I can think of, X-rated or not. It’s thrilling, and self-affirming, and enlightening, and miraculous. I LOVE being edited by a good editor.

    When I was an editor, some of my writers didn’t fully appreciate my brilliance. Some of them, foolishly, even argued with me. It made me sad. But I would always allow them their way, when it came to it, because the books were their books and not mine. All it meant was that those books were never quite as good as they could have been, and that was bitter-sweet.

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