Tag Archives: Editing

Picture Perfect

I have a friend that is a fan of doing things. If I really think about it, in reality, he’s a fan of learning things. If there is a thing he wants to and he doesn’t know how to do it, he learns it, and then he does the thing. Then he does this thing that is interesting. He stops. If he wants to get better at the thing he obviously doesn’t stop. He picks another harder or more challenging level for that thing and he keeps learning. But for his original purposes, once the thing is done he stops.

You see, my friend uses this expression that speaks to a philosophy that I have found useful when trying to be more productive:

Perfect is the enemy of done.

It’s a wonderful little sentence when you think about it. It has but six words. You could write it with four (perfect is done’s enemy), you could write it with five and fancy up some of the words (perfection runs contrary to completion), or you could bloat it out with a bunch of unnecessary stuff to make it sound more profound than it actually is (when you seek perfection you are competing against your interest of finishing the task at hand). As it is, it takes its own advice. It does its job and it is finished. It’s not perfect, but it is done.

Take note that this is a different philosophy than rushing through and doing something half-assed. That’s just being lazy and in some cases irresponsible. This expression at its core is about getting the job done but not fretting over minutiae that won’t impact the result in any appreciable way.

I often struggle with this in much of what I do creatively, in particular, my writing. When I write I have the tendency to edit as I go in an effort to have it read as I want it to read when it’s done. I am compelled to make it perfect the first time, or at least in as many iterations right then as it takes to get it just right. The end result is nice, but it takes a looooooooong time to get it there.

For National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I just write. I start at word count = 0 and I write with reckless abandon until word count = 50,000. I get to the finish line in near record time (for me) but the end result is far from noteworthy. I recently opened up a short manuscript (~51,000 words) that took me less than thirty days to write. It’s actually due to my publisher by the end of October. Aside from the fact that I wrote it three years ago, there was so much wrong with it that I was too embarrassed to let it see the light of day. This example makes a bit of a mockery of the “perfect is the enemy of done” expression.

There needs to be a balance. 

I take great pride in my work and never want something to go out into the world that doesn’t meet my standards, but there is a limit to what is practical. For blog posts, I often employ the “good enough” philosophy. By and large, I think they tend to be decent and occasionally pretty good so I think my approach for these is working. For novels, especially since I’ve just landed a publisher, I need to start trusting the process. I need to get the manuscripts done and stop chasing perfection. The editing team will do their jobs and won’t let it out into the world if it’s subpar and I have to trust them.

The catalyst for this post came during and immediately after the latest solar eclipse. I was on a strict timeline to get set up. I had to prepare the telescope in terms of position and focus and get my camera setup and attached to the telescope. I wanted to do a time-lapse composite image that required shots every 15-20 minutes. My goal was a sequence of 8-10 pictures that spanned the range of full sun to maximum eclipse for my geographic location (~80% coverage).

Nature, being what she is, would not wait and I hadn’t taken the day off work to do this so I had limited time to get set up in between replying to emails and whathaveyou. I would have to settle for “good enough” and cross my fingers. Better planning would have helped a lot. Some observations:

  • I did some test shots the day before so I’d know approximately where to have the focus knop on the telescope and what kind of exposure I needed, at least for a full sun. 
  • I didn’t charge my battery (oops!) 
  • I did have a backup filter I could use if I ran into problems. 
  • I didn’t factor in the angle of the sun and realized that I’d need to be lying on the ground to set up each shot. 
  • I did realize that I could set my rig up on a table to help with this. 
  • I didn’t realize the table shook every time I so much as breathed on it. 
  • The clouds did cooperate (somewhat miraculously) and I managed to get shots every 15 minutes or so throughout the whole 2+ hour event

When I got home I opened up the images and found that I got quite a few good ones. I really wanted to get the pictures up on the internet quickly before the hype died down so I opened up the basic image editor for Windows 10 and did an “auto enhance” on each one, cropped it square and then jacked up the warmth to give them a more sun-like colour. However, the exposure wasn’t identical for each of the pictures and the “auto enhance” feature only did so much to equalize them.

I started to muck with them in Windows 10 and then looked at the clock. I was running out of time and didn’t want to be up all night, so I cut bait on that idea and I put them all into GIMP (basically a free PhotoShop). I was pretty sure that most people would do the standing line of images with totality in the middle. I didn’t have a pic of totality so I was thinking of using either the maximum eclipse or full sun as the focal point. I mucked about with the layout for a bit and tried to come up with something different.

Before too long, inspiration struck and I had my layout. The colours were still off, though and I wasn’t completely okay with how it was looking. A quick time check told me I had precious few moments left so I saved what I had and stepped away from it. A few minutes later, I came back and took a look with fresh eyes, and do you know what? I liked it. I really liked it. The imbalance in the colour worked. It looked real. It looked organic.

It wasn’t perfect but it was done.

I have been using the expression, “Be better, not perfect,” as my personal life motto for a while now and it was at this moment in front of my eclipse photo creation I came to the realization that art and people have at least one thing in common.

Sometimes beauty lies within the imperfections.

“La Fleur d’Eclipse” (c) 2017 Andrew Butters

~ Andrew

One Night Only: Chuck Wendig’s Beard

As I have mentioned in a few previous posts, particularly those that revolve around NaNoWriMo, I am a pantser. Even the idea of planning out something before I write it gives me the heebie-jeebies. The problem with this is I am slightly (i.e. very) compulsive about certain things and in order for me to make decent progress I have to plan.

The same goes for any self improvement activity, whether it’s a new hobby or honing the skills of a particular craft like photography or writing. I got a new camera, a shiny new Nikon D90 a few years ago and read a couple things online and started snapping pictures. I had taken a photography course at the local community college a decade ago and figured I would just wing it. The results were better than average, but they weren’t great, so I took a couple more classes specifically geared toward the camera I owned and then started taking tonnes of pictures. The result? I wouldn’t classify them as “great”, but they are certainly better than anything I’ve ever done and I’m quite pleased.

When it comes to writing I’ve done a lot of reading, but not as much reading about how to write as I have much as I have for research and pleasure. This is not a bad thing, but just as reading about rocket science isn’t going to actually make me a rocket scientist, reading books isn’t going to make me an author. I’ve also done some writing, though not nearly as much as I should. I haven’t even amassed half a million words yet, in spite of finishing a first draft of a novel, having written 50,000 words towards a second novel, 20,000 words toward a third, and 52,000 words on my blog in the last 16 months.

So, when my friend and Orange Karen: Tribute to a Warrior publisher Christina Esdon sent me a message on Facebook a few months ago asking if I wanted to go to an all day writer’s workshop given by none other than Chuck Wendig I didn’t even have to check the calendar twice. I bought a ticket within minutes and yesterday morning she met me at my house and we carpooled into Toronto to go learn how to “art harder”, as chuck is wont to say from time to time (usually with a well place expletive at the end).

I own (but have not yet read) all of Chuck’s books on the writing craft and get every one of his blog posts over at Terrible Minds but didn’t have any idea what to expect. If you want the executive summary now here’s all you need to know: it was worth every penny ($90) and I’d do it again in the beat of a heart.

The room we set up very formally, with a podium at the front and rows of tables that each sat three people. After some background from Chuck on how he came to be a full time professional writer we got right down to business. We covered a wide range of topics and he had us do exercises for each one where we got to share with the class, get feedback from him and the others, and even participate in crowd-sourced story creation. It ended with a Q&A session on writing and storytelling and then a book signing / photo op.

Some of the stuff we covered:

  • Log lines
  • Themes
  • Characters
    • Problems
    • Solutions
    • Limitations
    • Complications
    • Strengths
    • Boons
    • Character Log lines

I’m not normally much of a note taker and even mentioned to Christina that I wasn’t sure I would take any notes, but I did have this wonderful pen my brother bought me for Christmas and a notepad just in case. By the end of the all day session I had taken six pages of notes (including stuff written for the exercises). In addition to that, I came up with one new idea for a series and several improvements for the novel that I’m editing.

On top of all that, I got to eat lunch with Chuck and spend some time having normal conversations. Well as normal as they could be given the fact that he’s this hugely successful writer on his first trip to Canada and I’m a newbie writer Chuck Wendig fanboy who grew up 15 minutes from where we were sitting noshing on some tasty Pickle Barrel sandwiches.

I scribbled down a little humorous line in my notebook while Chuck was talking with Christina and at a break in the conversation asked him if he’d do me the pleasure of signing it. He went one better and added a line of his own before penning his name to the bottom. Day = made. In addition to being a great writer and knowing his shit when it comes to the craft I can honestly say that he’s also one of the most genuine dudes I’ve ever met as well as beyond patient when it comes to his fans and fellow writers (especially considering how creepy I was being).

Hopefully this won’t cause Chuck any problems at the border

Finally, as if all of the above wasn’t enough he’s also got that awesome beard, which would come in really handy if I were in need of a good name for a punk band or thoroughbred racehorse.

Chuck Wending’s Beard

~ Andrew

Exposing Yourself

(…and other tips for new writers)

Some time ago I took a few paragraphs of my novel and posted it to a couple writers’ groups and my personal wall on Facebook. It was the first time I had let “the public” read anything I had written (the short story I had published last year was only seen by my wife and my editors). The feedback was wonderful and supportive from everyone and the critique that came in from the writers was helpful. It was a gut wrenching experience.

Those were just a few paragraphs though. I had written an entire novel (and fired the cupcake cannon), but there was still SO MUCH work to do. So much work! At this stage the whole thing was a disjointed passive voice character smorgasbord blarg of word vomit. In the 25 Steps to Becoming a Traditionally Published Author I had only completed Step 6. If you read that article (which I highly recommend everyone does even if they are not writers) you will see that the next step on the list involves “major surgery”.

I’m not a surgeon. Hell, I only took one biology class my whole life and it was a first year university course I took in my fourth year for the easy credit. In a similar parallel, I’m not a writer. Well, I am a writer, but I have limited formal training in the craft. The task in front of me I’ve never done before. I haven’t even seen anyone do it on TV. This was going to take a lot of reading / learning / crying and a little bit of help.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBDF04fQKtQ?rel=0]

So, I read a few books; novels written by people I knew. I paid attention to how the dialog sounded in my head and to the cadence of the prose. I went back to my notes, the ones I jotted down after I put those few paragraphs out there. Then, I sat down and took a chapter from my novel and gave it a little more shine. I cut a bunch of stuff that didn’t move the story forward, tweaked a few things to “show” instead of “tell”, and I firmed up the dialog. To keep a promise I made to my wife I plunked the chapter on Evernote and sent her the link.

Step 8 in the 25 Steps article (which I still highly recommend you read) is to give your book to someone you trust. Well, I trust my wife, but there’s 240 more pages of surgery left before it’s ready. I knew if I didn’t get some more feedback soon the rest of it wouldn’t be worth reading. So, I took a deep breath and pasted the link into one of my Facebook writer groups.

New Writer Tip #1: Find a supportive writers’ group and actively participate.

I posted my thousand words to the group with a request for people to give me their thoughts. Pressing “enter” was the easy part. Settling my stomach down afterwards was significantly harder. It didn’t take long for the critique to start flowing. My eyes instinctively jumped to words I wanted to see. Much to my dismay “amazing” and “award winning” weren’t anywhere to be found. It was still early but I was getting the feeling that the Giller Prize would have to wait.

What I did get were many excellent suggestions about how to turn certain phrases differently to achieve this or that, helpful comments about wanting to know more about my main character, tough but fair critiques about certain parts, and a dash of ego boosting praise about my dialog. All in all what I got out of this exercise far exceeded my expectations.

Was it worth it? Yes.

Will I do it again? Absolutely.

With every chapter? Absolutely not. 

My goal is to get better at this so I can write a readable novel without having to crowd source the major edits and rewrites that I should be doing on my own. It’s going to take a lot of work, and because I am really lazy it’s going to take a lot of time. The good news I won’t be going at it totally alone all the time. I’ll have a little from some friends who don’t mind seeing my work in a naked state.

New Writer Tip #2: When exposing yourself keep an eye out for stiff prose.

~ Andrew

Great Expectations

This starts as a story of a writer who put out a tonne of stuff in several genres in a short period of time and didn’t achieve immediate success, so, she decided to pack it in and give up on her dream.

Here are the highlights:

  • 7 books released in 2 years
    • 3 self-published, 4 with a “publisher” of some kind, and 1 book owing
  • After 2-3 years she figured she would be successful. 
    • She is not so she is quitting. Not just quitting, but pulling her stuff off Amazon and buying back the rights to the books she no longer owns
  • Meanwhile, her spectacularly thrown hissy fit Facebook post was just littered with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. 

Returning to her page several days after she thew in the towel I see that some of her friends have talked her out of it and she’s going to plow through. Good for her(?) Honestly, I’m not sure what to think. It seems like I’ve done more research for this blog post than she did in deciding to become a writer.

Image courtesy thaikrit at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

I took a look at her website and as far as I can tell this is a simple case of mismanaged expectations. Like the kids on American Idol who have been told by their parents that they’re the next Kelly Clarkson, this author had J.K. Rowling expectations when five out of six books in her portfolio are: two children’s picture books, two cook books, and a book of poems.

Now, I’m not sure what her definition of “success” is, but from what I’ve seen on her Facebook wall, it looks like recognition is pretty high up on the list. If that’s the case, then I might suggest that poetry, children’s picture books, and cookbooks might not be the quickest road to success. Certainly it’s possible, but: poetry world is a niche market at best, and finicky as hell; children’s picture books are the most saturated genre on the planet; and unless you’re actually a trained in the culinary arts or are Susanne Somers it’s going to be a long, slow road to success.

How a writer defines success is entirely up to them. How anyone defines success is entirely up to them. Personally, I’ve set modest goals with the intent of making them bigger and better as I move ahead with achieving each one. My expectations are set modestly and I have a good grasp on the reality of the situation. I understand that my goals may be just a little bit out of reach, but that’s okay. I can’t think of a single successful person (by any measure) that didn’t push themselves a little further. I understand that if I keep doing what I’m doing then I’m going to keep getting what I get.

Most importantly, I understand it’s going to take a bit of luck.

Image courtesy Michal Marcol at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Just to be clear, when I speak of luck this is the equation I have in mind:

Luck = Preparation + Opportunity 1


  • You only get out what you put in
  • You  reap what you sow
  • You get what you deserve
  • Karma’s a bitch

Okay, maybe that last one’s a bit off topic but you get the idea (plus I love that particular expression). Someone mentioned to me the other day that they found me “inspiring”. Even though I was truly flattered, I had to laugh because it just so happens that I’m the laziest person in the world. I’m an excellent example of how one can achieve success but only if you allow it to take four times longer than it should.

That being said, I have more than a few successes to speak of (a couple in writing even!), and I know exactly how much time and effort I’ve put into achieving each one. You want to know something? If you do the research, constantly keep your eyes scanning for opportunity, and make your way to Carnegie Hall (practice, practice, practice) you’ll be successful. It’s that simple.

Image created and owned by David Samuel

But wait! You say you scribbled a few things down and didn’t achieve J.K. Rowling level success on the first try? Well then, you’ve got two choices: pack it in or keep trying, and if you choose the latter you had better not do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. Not only will you continue to get what you get but you’ll start to look a little crazy in the process.

~ Andrew

One Third

Thirty days has September; April, June, and November…

That would mean that on the tenth day (or rather at the end of it), if one were participating in say… a novel writing competition or a moustache growing charity event, that one would be one third of the way through. As it turns out I am doing both of those things, and a good many of you out there are doing so as well.

Based on my last post on NaNoWriMovember many of the dudes out there have opted not to grow the ‘stache for various reasons; choosing to donate cash money to the cause instead. Hey, whatever tickles your fancy, it’s your chiselled visage not mine.

Before we get to the writers portion of this post, feel free to click the badass snake moustache if you want to donate something in support of the wonderful Movember funding programs:

Now, on to the writing! You are all writing, right? I mean, you can’t crank out 1,667 words a day every day for thirty days and not do a little writing. In actual fact it’s more than a little writing, as many of you with additional jobs beyond penmonkey can attest. This is my third year attempting NaNoWriMo and for the second time in a row I’ve passed what I consider to be the hardest part of the journey: the 10,000 to 15,000 word slog-fest.

This is the fabulous time where you’ve been going at it for several days straight and even though you’re well into the foothills you take a look up, and you keep looking, up, up, up and you realize that at 10,000 words you’re only one fifth of the way there – and you’re already exhausted. Cue the self-doubt, anxiety, and depression.

But don’t fire the Sherpa just yet. You can do this. How do I know? I just know. Now stop asking questions, you should be writing. And therein lies the key: stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop researching, stop wondering about this, and thinking about that. Just stop.

If you’re one of those fancy plotters who has an outline then just follow the outline and write. If you’re a pantser and letting your characters lead the way, then let them lead. It’s not your job to question what they’re doing, or if that phrase in Latin actually means what you want it to mean. Your characters are like that hard assed teacher you had in middle school. The one who was adamant, and wrong, about just about everything. Your job now, just as it was then, is to smile and politely write down 1 + 1 = 3.

Image courtesy Ohmmy3d at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Finally, find yourself a friend or two. If you’re on a roll then they’ll help you roll faster. If you’re stuck and ready to pack it in they’ll pull you out of the mud. Whether it’s on Twitter using the #NaNoWriMo hashtag or on Facebook with one of the many NaNo groups out there, find a support group and use it (join my NaNoWriMo 2013 group if you want).

There is nothing quite like screaming into the wind when there are a bunch of random people there with some fabulous WIND BUFFING MECHANISMS that will allow your screams to be heard (see what I did there?)

~ Andrew

Anyone Can Write a Book

So this quote came across my Facebook wall a week or so ago:

“After I had written this book I told several friends. Their response was polite and mild. Later I was able to tell them the book was going to be published. Almost to a man they used the words ‘I am proud of you.’ They were proud of the result but not of the action.” – Hugh Prather

Attached to that post was some additional commentary from the person who posted the quote. He was proud of all his friends for their actions, not the end results. In that moment, I felt very fortunate to know this person and I felt even more fortunate that he was just one of many people in my life who echoed that sentiment. 

You see I have written a short story that was published in an anthology. When I got the email saying that I had made it into the book my wife came up to me and said, “Congratulations, you’re a published author!” On the surface would appear that this was praise attached to the result. That would be true as becoming published is a big deal, however, if we go back not a month earlier I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

NaNo, as it is affectionately known, is a challenge to write a novel in 30 days (a novel being defined as at least 50,000 words). I tried in 2011 and failed miserably, barely squeaking out 21,000 words. In 2012 I also squeaked out a number – 50,000 in 29 days (I took the last day off to celebrate AND grew a moustache for Movember the whole time). As soon as I crossed the 50,000 word plateau I paused and took a moment to soak it all in. My wife wrapped her arms around my neck, kissed me on the cheek and said, “Congratulations, you’re a novelist!” 

The support and the support of those around me as I muddle my way through this whole book writing thing is absolutely outstanding. To them, and certainly to me, the journey toward becoming a novelist is an accomplishment to be proud of.

Fast forward to one of the first comments on that Facebook post I started this article with. It read: 

“Anyone can write a book. The trick is writing something good enough to convince a publisher that enough people will find it interesting enough to buy.”

Sitting on my couch reading that comment over and over I went right properly ballistic.

After settling down a bit I re-read it and I guess there’s a certain amount of truth to the statement. In one month, technically, I wrote a book, but his over simplification of the task and his assertion that for your book to be “good” you need to “convince a publisher that enough people will find it interesting enough to buy”, are well… *cough cough* bullshit *cough cough* 

First of all, I suspect that there’s only so much convincing that you (or your agent) can do. At the end of the day content is king. It does need to be interesting, but the idea that if you can’t convince a publisher it will sell that you have nothing to be proud of, or that your book isn’t good,  is completely absurd. Quite frankly, those sound like the words of someone who is never going to write a book.

The first thought that went through my head was actually, Sure anyone can write a book. In the same way that anyone can become an astronaut. This was echoed by my writer friend Gareth Young when I mentioned this Facebook post to him and he replied:

“It’s a little like saying you just have to study and train hard, be a genius level polymath and Olympic level athlete to be an astronaut. Sounds pretty straightforward when you put it like that. Although now anyone can be an astronaut too. All you need is plenty of money and the Russians will strap you into one of their rockets and shoot you into space.”

If we take it a step further, these days anyone can get a book published too. Self publishing is a rapidly growing business and many writers are having a pretty good go with it. So, Mr. Facebook Guy, does this mean that if you self-publish you have nothing to be proud of? Is your book not “good enough”?

Now, because (surprisingly) not everyone has read everything I have ever written on this blog you may not know that back on February 9th I wrote this:

Good ideas are even harder to come by. Those are like the crystal clear double rainbow you see after a short summer rain where you can imagine giant pots of gold at each end and a bevy of leprechauns dancing a jig around them. Oh, and let’s not forget that all this has to be interesting enough for people to read. That’s like trying to describe your rainbow scene in such a way that someone would rather read about it from you than see the photograph of it taken by someone else.

My excerpt was in the context of being a writer – as in, anyone can write but not everyone can write something readable. On the surface you’d think my comment and the Facebook Guy’s were just variations of each other, but there’s a solid distinction to be made. Gareth (this guy is good with words – I mean really good) also had this to say:

“Anyone can write a book but not everyone can be a writer. Writers are a whole different animal from people who just write books.”

Indeed. Anyone can blather 50,000 words onto a page and say “I wrote a book”. I did it, and I’m a giant lazy turd with a day job and a family and more procrastination techniques than anyone I’ve ever met. But that’s not all there is to writing a book – at least not if you want to be a writer. Blathering gibberish onto a page is making a book, not writing a book.

Properly writing a book means a whole lot of research, hard work, patience, and dedication. When you’re done and you’ve got your fifty, sixty, seventy, or a hundred thousand words down on the page; with all your characters developed, your plot points covered, your beginning, middle, and end all tucked away between the title page at the front and the final punctuation mark at the end you take a break, and then you edit it. You edit the living hell out of it. Then you edit it again, and possibly again. Then, you let someone else read it. Maybe it’s some beta readers, maybe it’s a professional editor, maybe it’s your husband, your wife, your best friend, or your mom. You take this thing that you’ve just invested countless hours on, put your heart and soul into, devoted those precious few free waking moments to, and you hand it to someone – and you wait. You wait and you wait and you wait. You wait for them to tell you… that it’s not good enough.

Then, you suppress your anger, you hide your tears and bite your lip, and you take the comments, one by one, and you learn from them. You make changes and you re-write and you re-work and you polish. You push through the pain and the heartache, and you keep writing. You just keep writing.

Just keep writing.

After you have spent more time editing and re-writing (and crying) than you did writing it in the first place, you finish. Done. You write your acknowledgements and you celebrate, for you have accomplished something great.

It is said that a first novel can take someone years to write. If you still think anyone can do it I dare you to try – just once – give it a try. I’ll check back with you in 2015 and see how you’re making out.

~ Andrew

The Night Was Poorly Lit and Tumultuous

I am what could be classified as a ‘new writer’. Aside from a two page anecdotein the humorous collection “The Darwin Awards III: Survival of the Fittest” I have never been published. I write this blog, of course, but these posts are mostly just random thoughts that eject from my head like the Oort cloud spitting out a comet. Many have come, but only a few have ever been considered wonderful. 
I have a full time job, and a family, and several other interests outside of writing, but for some reason I am drawn to the art of dreaming up a fabulous story in my head, and translating those thoughts into words, and organizing them in such a way that they transport the reader to a world that is not their own.
I had this idea to write a screenplay, so I could see my story come to life, but a friend suggested I write it as a book first. He knows me well, and though I fought the idea for some time I eventually came to the same conclusion. So off I went; to write a book. I wasn’t really concerned that I’ve read exactly zero books on how to write, or that I haven’t studied English, literature, or anything remotely related to writing in almost two decades. I’ve read Lynne Truss’ “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”, insist on a single space after a full stop, and will fight to the death over the Oxford comma. That should be good enough, right?
There are many schools of thought on how to begin writing a book. There are thousands of books/websites/classes/opinionated snobs that will tell you this but in my opinion Kurt Vonnegut sums it up better than anyone else: 

“You cannot edit a blank page.”
So, I’m writing a novel and a trilogy of short stories and both are marching along slowly but surely. Then, I heard about the Orange Karen Anthology. Writing communities are close-knit and when one person in this community suffers they all suffer. They also all rally behind each other providing the support necessary to help people through tough times. When a friend of ours was struck by a terrible illness, and racked up ridiculous medical bills in the process, her community rallied to create an anthology with all proceeds going to help her out with the financial costs that have come with surviving.
In awe of her courage and determination, and proud of the support from her community, I was inspired to submit a story for consideration in the book. Taking a page from Mr. Vonnegut I just wrote it down. It was a story based on real-life events, and it was an emotional one to tell. I had mentioned I was writing it in a Facebook group  and another group member, a friend who wrote alongside me during NaNoWriMo this year, offered her assistance with editing. I happily accepted her offer.
At first she had some reservations. The topic was very close to me and she didn’t know how I would accept her feedback. But, we both plugged through those uncertainties, fears, and doubts and several versions and emotionally gut wrenching re-writes later we had a finished story to be proud of. It was exhausting, and it was completely worth it. 
Jennifer Gracen was my editor and she guided me through this process gently, but with expert precision. I am beginning to think it’s no accident that you can find the word “grace” in her last name and the fact that she is a compassionate mother of two beautiful children served her well on this project. From her initial suggestion to write in the third person (I stared by writing it in first person) to her final “I like how you re-worked this”; every bit of red ink on that manuscript was a learning opportunity and it would have been a tragic waste of time for both of us if I would have considered it anything less.
Jennifer’s job was to tighten my sentence structure, fix my grammar (and my god forsaken tense mix ups), suggest alternate wording, prevent orphaned or complex dialog, and otherwise tease, coax, persuade, charm, lure, sweet-talk, or cajole the right words out of me using whatever methods she felt would work best. Looking back at that first brain dump of words and comparing it with the final version you wouldn’t know that it was written by the same person. 
My editor made me a better writer.
I am beyond thankful for all the effort she put into this and I sincerely hope that I will get to work with her again. My only concern now is that she will read this post and notice that I have ignored a lot of what she just taught me. Don’t worry, Jen, not every comet gets to be wonderful.

It is with all my heart and the utmost compassion that I extend a thank you to my dear wife. The story is more hers than it is mine and she didn’t just let me write it – she gave me the strength to write it and for this I am eternally grateful.