Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Master Editor

By Julie Coulter Bellon

At our StoryMaker Conference this past weekend, I bought a little plaque that said, "All my enemies become victims or incompetent villains in my novels." I loved that plaque because it’s true. I have written people into my novels that weren’t nice to me. It felt cathartic, too, in a way. I have a tender heart and I have worked long and hard on getting a tougher skin, but it’s a trial for me. If I were writing my own life, I would definitely try to make myself less sensitive and explore that story idea of something really exciting and daring happening to me and rooting out that part of my personality. Then I wouldn’t be reduced to writing novels with mean people’s names in them and laughing every time I read it to myself.

As I mentioned last week, sometimes the editor in me is a hard beast to tame. I pick and pick until it feels perfect. Then I can send it in and move forward. (I did hand in that manuscript, by the way, in case you were curious). I gave a presentation on Advanced Editing at the StoryMaker Conference and I was a little nervous about it, to tell you the truth. Lisa Mangum, an editor over at Deseret Book attended the class and I wondered if she would feel the same way about the things I had highlighted for Advanced Editing. Part of me was confident that she would, though, because when I accepted the invitation to teach the class I called an editor friend of mine on the East Coast and asked her what bugged her most about authors/editing and what I should tell people who came to my class. We brainstormed awhile and came up with a syllabus and eerily, her list of important dos and don’t for aspiring writers was almost the same as mine. So I was pretty sure that it was a universal thing among editors. Lisa did talk to me after the class and said that she had felt like saying, "Amen, sister" to everything I said, so that validated my thoughts on that.

So, anyway, I finished teaching the class and stayed after to talk to some people and answer questions, and while I was talking I thought of two things I’d wanted to hit on and hadn’t. It was tempting to try and call them all back to fix my "editing" mistake, but of course it was too late by then. But that got me thinking.

Don’t you really wish we could edit our own lives sometimes? I do. Especially when I make really dumb mistakes. Which, sadly, is quite often. Of course, if I could edit my own life, I would rewrite some stuff that has already happened (like that unfortunate karaoke incident), and things I wish I could do over (like my trip to the Greek Islands. If I could rewrite that, I would definitely make it a longer trip. Three weeks wasn’t long enough!). I’d also rewrite things I would like to skip altogether (like boring classes or morning sickness) and delete all the bad things I’ve ever done. Then I’d write myself a happy ending with my thin, svelte self, arriving in heaven with my handsome husband and six amazing children. Yep, I can see it now.

But if you want to get right down to it, we really do have that ability through the Master Editor, our Savior, Jesus Christ. He will edit our mistakes out. Because of his Atonement, we can repent and have our mistakes deleted. Of course, we can’t rewrite ourselves out of sorrow and regret, but we are building our character through experiences and hopefully learning something along the way. So sometimes, my tender heart is really an asset because it allows me to empathize and feel emotions that maybe I wouldn't otherwise. Although writing the people who have hurt me into my novels as a bunch of incompetents is probably a teensy bit naughty. I'll need to work on that. However, the happy ending I described is definitely available to everyone. (Well, I added in the thin svelte part. That's my hope though). But seriously, the whole reason we’re here in the first place is so we can return back to our Heavenly Father with our family and enjoy the blessings of exaltation. It is through our Savior, the one person who gave everything for us, that we can receive that happy ending.

So after careful thought, maybe I wouldn’t edit my life like I would a book. But I’m certainly going to try to get that happy ending and be grateful that there is a Master Editor who knows exactly what I need to achieve it and is willing to help me get there.


At 3/29/2007 7:49 PM, Blogger Keith Fisher said...

Very well said. Maybe that's why we gravitate toward writing. We have the "Echos of eternity" ringing in our ears. (Oh how cliche') anyway thanks.

At 3/29/2007 8:50 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

I hear you on that "thin and svelte" thing. :)

At 3/29/2007 10:22 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

This is exactly how I feel sometimes, Julie! I had someone once tell me that they figured I must always be able to say exactly what I think because I'm a writer. (Considering the disconnect between my brain and mouth, that's a scary prospect.) I guess people assume writers have a way with words. But with my writing I can always go back and change, tweak, edit and revise for literally weeks and months until my words mean what I want them to say. Not so when you're in the middle of a conversation. "No! What I meant was . . . shoot! Talk to me in a week, and I'll be able to phrase it right!"

At 3/30/2007 11:43 AM, Blogger Josi said...

Amen Sistah!! Thank goodness for the chance to review, renew and relax in knowing that it's not over til it's over and yet how much we learn from our mistakes!! Great blog and great reminder. Thank goodness for second chances--and third, and fifteenth,and one hundred sixty seventh...

At 3/30/2007 11:46 AM, Anonymous Jennie said...

Great column, Julie, and I share both Annette's and Tristi's sentiments. Actually, I wouldn't want you to have a tougher skin; that would make you less sensitive and your sensitivity is one of the elements that make you the outstanding writer you are. (By the way, your column tempted me to go back and read all of your books to see if I'm one of the people who ticked you off enough to wind up a villian in one of your books.)

At 3/30/2007 12:15 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Jennie, that's my brilliant marketing ploy. Now ALL of you will go buy my books to see if your name is in them! Bwahahaha!

Actually, Jennie, your name would never be there because you've been such a sweet friend. Not so for other people *coughRobWellscough*

And I totally agree with Keith, Tristi, Josi and Annette. Thanks for adding your thoughts. They were exactly what I needed to hear. Not to mention how fun it was to hang out with you all at the conference. You guys are awesome!


Post a Comment

<< Home