Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Critique/Review (for writers) (05/06/10)
TITLE: I'm Just Saying
By Sarah Elisabeth
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After I read all I can from her lips, my eyes move up to hers. Focused, unblinking, scanning a single sentence a dozen and one times. When her brows knit together, I know something major is coming. I pretend to busy myself reading another copy while I search her face for further signs. I finally speak.
“Well?” I count the seconds. The longer her reply takes, the worse the answer.
“Hmmm.” My editor never says much at first. I try to swallow my impatience.
“What do you think? Is it any good, or should I just throw it out and start over?” I’m careful not to say too much. My editor can lose her train of thoughts rather easily sometimes.
“Well, let’s see.” Another long pause. Her slow response is not encouraging. I suppress a sigh as I wiggle slightly in my chair.
“So you don’t like it?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“I know. But that’s what you want to say.”
“It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just this one part that’s bugging me.”
I resist putting a hand on top of my head to keep it in place.
“It’s just this part about the brother coming home. I mean, he gets on a bus and his sister just happens to be at the bus stop when he gets there? It doesn’t seem realistic.”
I squirm. “But that’s the whole gist of it. She’s goes to the station every day, hoping he’ll come. She almost doesn’t go that day, but something prompts her to. That’s why I had that phone call in there, to show what was going on instead of telling it.”
“Well, I’m just saying, it doesn’t quite work. Something isn’t flowing right. Maybe you could have it where she runs into him at the hospital where he finally arrives to see their dying father. I mean, that <i>is</i> why she’s hoping he’ll come. Then you can tie that whole scene together and save word count. You have to keep it under three thousand and you’re at three thousand eighty-six.”
I avoid my editor’s eyes. <i>But I want them to meet at the bus station. Otherwise, I have to figure out how to squeeze that wise bystander into the hospital scene and that won’t work. Or will it?</i>
“So,” I say, “you think the woman who talks to them about God could be at the hospital instead of catching a bus to reunite with her husband? Why would she be at the hospital?”
I continue, “Okay, how about this: the sister is about to leave the hospital for the day and runs into her brother in the parking lot. The woman could be a nurse at the hospital and that’s where she meets them on her way to leave for the bus station.”
My editor’s mouth twists to one side. After working with her for nearly twenty years, I know this to be a definite sign she isn’t getting the picture – or doesn’t like what she sees. I must wait for her feedback without speaking.
“That might work. What about the phone call and all of that?”
“It can still be a part of it. I’ll just add another twist.” My words are more confident than my feelings.
After an hour of re-work, I am once again studying my editor’s face for honest reaction. I see she is focusing on one line. I know what the problem is.
“You don’t like the word I used there, do you? ‘Reserved’ for the sister’s reaction?”
“Well, I think we could find a better one.” And we do. Half an hour later.
Suffering from emotional exhaustion of the roller coaster story I’ve produced, I prop my head up with one hand before asking, “What do you think? Is it getting close?”
“Well, what about….”
Two more hours pass. My editor’s stamina and patience never cease to amaze me.
“This is looking really good.” I sit up straighter at the first praise of my piece. My editor’s words carry me through the next hour of tweaking and proofreading.
“I think it’s ready. You’ve written a great story, Lu.”
Beaming, I wrap my arms around my editor’s neck and kiss her cheek.
“Thank you, Mama. I couldn’t do it without you.”
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