A while back, I recorded an essay for our local NPR affiliiate about a camping trip up on the Blue Ridge with my kids in the late fall. Looks like it will be broadcast one morning between 5:30 and 9:00 during the week of December 1st. For those of you who — like me — aren’t likely to invest that kind of time listening, it’s already posted online here.
In the studio, encased in headphones in a soundproofed room, I recorded it in my best radio voice — actually my only voice. Turned out to be about four minutes long. I uploaded to them, they acknowledged receipt and then, the next day, let me know that they had made some edits. Some edits? I asked in an email. Yes, they replied, it was a bit too long, so we cut it from four minutes to three minutes. Now that’s a cut.
I suppose this is a taste of my own medicine. I’m usually pretty liberal with my use of the red pen — these are truly mightier than the sword — when editing the work of others. I like to think this exercise usually makes things stronger — clearer, punchier, better-organized. After all, to some degree, that is both my training and my job. Besides, there’s nothing like a good editor, and I’ve certainly benefited from their labors.
I have the good fortune to be married to the best editor I know. Several years ago, I wrote a short fiction piece that I asked her to look over. She made one small suggestion: she wanted me to repeat one word at the end. The effect of that small change was profound, and it made the piece resonate and echo in a way that went far beyond its brevity. In fact, the story was subsequently published in an online journal titled Brevity.
I’ve just listened to the final version of the recorded essay for the first time, and once again, I’ve been the beneficiary of good editing. It think it sounds a bit rushed in spots, and some passages got cut that I liked pretty well, but overall it works. It’s clearer, punchier, and better-organized. I just can’t figure out how they used a red pen on a sound file.
If you’re interested in hearing or reading the unedited version, let me know and I’ll either send it to you or post it here.