The Best Kind of Editing

This week, instead of doing our taxes, the Debs are talking about auditing, err, editing. 

In the fall of 2007, I took a novel-in-progress class at Grub Street with instructor and author, Lisa Borders. It was the first time I was showing anyone the novel I was working on, which turned out to be the early drafts of FEAST OF SORROW.  It was there that I met Anjali Mitter Duva, who was workshopping the early drafts of her beautiful novel about 16th century devadasi dancers in India, FAINT PROMISE OF RAIN.

That class, and meeting those women, quite literally changed the course of my life. Anjali and I started meeting up to talk about writing and read each other’s work, and then, after taking another novel in progress course with Lisa, I met Jennifer Dupee, who I invited to join us. Over the course of the next few years, we had a few other women come and go, each of them making their mark on our manuscripts along the way. We added Kelly Robertson in 2011 and we’ve been together as a writing team ever since.

We meet regularly, nearly every two weeks, at a local restaurant that we love. Five years ago we also began taking a yearly retreat to Maine, where we write, on a strict schedule, for 3-4 glorious days. We hack apart each other’s chapters, we talk about the craft of writing, the business of publishing and over the years, we’ve become dear friends. We named ourselves the Salt + Radish writers for a few reasons. One, we love the French snack and share it every summer on our writing retreat. Salt is a foundation, it is sustenance, and we give that to each other nearly daily through constant touchpoints, be it email, text, phone or Slack. Butter is comfort, enrichment. Radishes represent flavor and conviviality–we have had hundreds of meals together. Together these ingredients are a recipe for unexpected deliciousness. Together, we Salties are a recipe for change, for improvement, fun and for writing better books.

Editing is a big part of what we do every two weeks. Usually one or two of us submit a couple of chapters to go over. Sometimes it’s a bigger chunk, in which case we allow for a longer time to read than two weeks. We are thoughtful but thorough. Respectful always, pointing out the good and the bad, of which there is a lot of both. We are honest with each other when something isn’t working. We mark up the pages with fixes and  comments and we discuss ideas with candor. I learn so much from going over the books of these women, just as I learn from every edit they make on my manuscripts.

THAT is the best kind of editing. Tough love, but with the love of friends that have been meeting for ten years.

I thought this video was perfect. It represents a lot to me–happiness, in my writing, my partnership with these fantastic women and ongoing progress in my writing life.

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Crystal King is a writer, culinary enthusiast and social media expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and an obsession with the food, language and culture of Italy. She has taught writing, creativity and social media at Grub Street and several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University. Crystal received her masters in critical and creative thinking from University of Massachusetts Boston. She lives with her husband and their two cats in the Boston area.

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2 thoughts on “The Best Kind of Editing

  1. I’d love to hear what your writing schedule is on those retreats. I love going away for days to write and have been thinking of including others – would love to hear how you guys work it!

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