Small Town Divorce: Editing Sample

Small Town Divorce: A Road Map through Devastation, Despair, and Drama by Denise Anderson can be purchased here.

A major thank you to the incredibly talented Denise Anderson for allowing me to accompany her on her book journey. Our time together was nothing short of magical. Can’t wait for book number two.


Included in this editing sample, you will find the following: 

  1. A summary of a portion of the high-level edits that were completed before the line editing stage.
  2. An excerpt of the line edits I returned to the author.
  3. The final version of the excerpt.

1. Summary of the First Two Rounds of High-Level Edits

My overall goal with Denise Anderson’s manuscript was to preserve her voice at all costs. Laden with hyperbole, metaphor, wit, and grace, Denise’s voice is one of the most eccentric and unique voices I have ever had the honor of working with. It’s obvious that she writes with her ear, which is the mark of a talented writer.

Verbal communication and written communication are vastly different, thus when an author writes with his or her ear, sometimes the writing can feel more as a verbal conversation, rather than a written one, which can negatively interfere with how the reader experiences the author’s words. Thus, the bulk of my edits focused on shifting Denise’s words from a verbal style to a written style.

My secondary goal with Denise’s manuscript was to establish a strict structure. Because the manuscript is a how-to guide, it only made sense to follow a simple problem/solution style. Explain the problem the reader may encounter when going through her divorce, then tell the reader the solution and process created to overcome that problem. What this meant for Denise was that, as she edited, she needed to ask herself if the current manuscript fit that structure. If it did not, she would need to rearrange the text until it did. One of the tricks I offered to her was to add in more subtitles. Subtitles are an excellent tool to not only keep the reader’s mind on track, but also to keep the author’s mind on track by ensuring all thoughts and ideas are correctly grouped together.

Denise wrote Small Town Divorce as a how-to guide to help women who struggle after a publicized divorce. Not only did Denise experience her own publicized divorce, but she has coached other women through divorce, as well. The first draft manuscript was more advice than it was stories. In other words, it was more tell than it was show. In order to truly connect with her reader, I encouraged Denise to add in more stories to correlate with the corresponding advice. During our two rounds of high-level edits, Denise implemented a vast amount of stories, all told from the heart, yet through her ear.

These are just a few of the high-level edits I gave to Denise during the first two rounds of edits. Denise’s keen attention to detail and trust in me as her editor resulted in a draft manuscript that was more than ready for a line edit.

2. Excerpt from the Line Edits

3. Final Version of the Excerpt

Chapter 9: That Change Will Do You Good

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a quick and sudden change.”

 — Mary W. Shelley

Divorce is certain to bring about an enormous amount of change in your life. Nothing will be the same. Your marital status has changed, obviously; you are no longer someone’s husband or wife. You don’t have the same friends, live in the same house, or see your children on a regular basis. You may encounter a different job or career, and your financial situation can become uncertain or unstable. Your in-laws may no longer be a part of your life – or certainly not like they used to be. Everything about your daily routine is different, new, and uncomfortable. Living with this change can be overwhelming, to say the least.

You desire to become more comfortable with the changes in your life and to feel more at ease as things continue to change around you. I will share stories that involve some changes that were brought about, and then other stories that speak about the changes in our lives that happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Your comfort will come from a perspective shift when you begin to shine a light on the parts of your life that light you up. I will explain that to you at the end of this chapter, so please stick with me, and let’s embrace these changes together.

I have witnessed the impact that such dramatic and quick changes can have both in the lives of my clients and in my own life. Divorce brings so many changes to your life and it can take time to adjust to your new way of living. Until I was able to accept the changes and stop going back to the way things used to be, I struggled and fought with finding a new way to do life. You, too, feel heartbroken for the way life used to be, and you miss some of the people who are no longer in your life. You feel scared about the uncertainty that lies ahead. You feel anxious and lost without the usual contact and routine that you were so accustomed to.

Divorce is not unlike experiencing death when it comes to changes and the alterations that occur in all areas of your life. Although, when you divorce it is treated differently by others, compared to how they respond when you experience a death in your family.

My father passed away several months ago, and I watch my mom adjust to all of the changes in her life. She misses having someone to talk to, and she has no one waiting for her when she comes home after completing her errands downtown. She was used to having someone there to tell her funny jokes and long stories. Her meal preparation has changed; she makes all of the decisions and Dad isn’t there to kiss her goodnight and enjoy some physical touch. Some furniture in the house changed, and his belongings are no longer there. These changes are difficult to adjust to, and she knows that each season brings even more changes. My mom is learning to do things on her own.

Overcoming how uncomfortable it feels to do things differently or to try new things you have never experienced before is a major hurdle for many people to jump over. Getting excited about new things and going to different places can help ease the hole you feel inside and help you to adjust to a new way of living. Change is difficult regardless of how it is brought about in your life. Your willingness has a lot to do with how quickly you will adjust and will determine the quality of your experiences.

Change can feel more manageable when you bring about that change deliberately. For example, you tell your hairdresser that you would like a drastic makeover. You cut, color, perm, puff, straighten, streak, braid, bun, shave, or extend your hair. It can take a bit of getting used to, but for the most part, this change is fun and exciting. It brings a new energy and some spunk to your step. You were happy to get rid of the old hairdo and update to a new one, and you love the results of that change and how you feel.

You can also decide to change the ambiance of your living space. You start by painting those dull and bland white walls with a warm and inviting grey tone. You replace the worn-out carpet with a wooden flooring and a cozy throw rug in the middle of the room. You take down the blinds and drape a gorgeous material over the windows. The furniture is outdated, and you are tired of the springs in the couch poking your butt every time you sit down to watch television. A new and updated set of furniture arrives, and you and your butt couldn’t be happier. You stand back and take a look at all of the changes that you made. It feels completely different and you love it. Remembering the times in your life when you invited change and loved it can help you to appreciate some of the changes you experience and struggle to adjust to.

I remember my client, Mindy, and how disorientated she was when she started her new job. She was excited to learn new skills and work in a new location with new people. However, that excitement didn’t last for long. All of the changes that took place in a short period of time overwhelmed her. She was unsure of where anything was located in the office, which did not sit well with her need to organize things. Her new required skills that she had not yet mastered caused her to feel a lot of anxiety and pressure.

The new location in the industrial side of the city meant that she commuted a longer distance than usual. Rather than being surrounded by restaurants and cozy places to get something to eat, she was forced to pack a lunch or go hungry. Not everyone in the office was warm and inviting, and she often felt like the outsider. Too many things had changed all at once, and she was having difficulty coping with it all. I suggested to Mindy to arrange a few things at work that would quickly become familiar to her. For example, I had her organize her desk the way she liked it, as this would help to settle her need for organization, and I also suggested that she make friends with one of her coworkers so she didn’t have to feel so out of sorts and unfamiliar with everything. Jumping in as she did, and arranging what she could, helped her to adjust to the changes that were out of her control. Although Mindy struggled with the changes at work, I am sure you can relate to the difficulty of her change as it relates to your divorce.

Although you find yourself amongst radical change, see if you can keep a routine that you are familiar with. It may seem insignificant, but holding on to a few familiar objects or ways of doing things can help to diminish fear as you look around your new environment. You can find comfort in the things that have stayed the same and the things you enjoy to help you embrace the things that have changed and the things you find less enjoyable.

Mark was not unlike Mindy, except for the fact that, on top of coping with the changes brought about from a new job, he also went through a divorce at the same time. He juggled his new work schedule with the scheduled time with his children. He had moved into a different home and needed to adjust to this new living space. His brother-in-law, who was once his best friend, was no longer there for moral support. His over-active social life was now non-existent as he spent more time on his own. He learned to cook for one when his children were not with him, and on top of everything, he missed his dog. He, too, was looking for some answers and ways of dealing with the changes in his life.

What I had both Mindy and Mark do was to take life one day at a time. Trying to figure it all out in one day was not going to happen, so they needed to give themselves time to adjust. Rather than focus on what life would look like in a year from then or how they would handle next week, they needed to focus on the day they were in and take it as it came. I asked them to take note of the positive things that happened in their lives, similar to the way a gratitude journal works. Place your attention on the people, places, and things you enjoy and that make you happy. What you focus on, you tend to create more of.

I have compassion for people experiencing such dramatic changes, as I know it is not an easy process and can bring with it a lot of uncomfortable and painful feelings. It is good to remind yourself that change is a natural and inevitable part of life. You haven’t done anything wrong and you are not being punished because your life has been shaken up. Often, changes are brought about in order for you to grow as you learn to navigate new environments and evolve into the person who can adapt, accept, and thrive in an ever-changing world. You have within you an innate ability to weather the storm, accept these changes as a natural part of life, and perceive these changes through a different set of eyes.

Remember, you are up against your mind, which wants to keep you safe and protected. The best way that it knows how to do this is to keep things the same. When things change, the mind has to constantly access the environment and look into its database for information on how to keep you alive. It will fight for you to keep the status quo – to do the same things that you did yesterday – and it will pull on the reins when any movement is made toward something new or different.

In order to combat all this change, let’s pull out that flashlight so we can shed some light on the beautiful things occurring in your life. Once again, let’s have some fun. This is my version of a gratitude journal. Rather than writing down what you are grateful for, I want you to take a flashlight and shine it on all of the things that make you smile, the things you appreciate, the things that you love, and the things that make you happy to be alive. Yes, I am serious. Actually use a flashlight. I encourage you to carry a small flashlight with you so you can do this regardless of where you are. Why am I asking you to use a flashlight? Because, once you are done carrying that flashlight around with you, you are going to replace that flashlight with your eyes. Yes, your eyes. You will come to associate appreciation and gratitude with everything you lay your eyes on.

A change in perception is a powerful way to walk through the changes in your life. Appreciating the positive things that are happening in your life now does not dismiss the positive and wonderful things that were occurring in your life before, but it does prevent you from remaining stuck on the “way things used to be,” and not enjoying or appreciating what you have now. It is also a great way to empower yourself. We are not often in control of the outer circumstances that occur around us or of what other people say or do. But you do have control of how you react and respond to these changes. One of my favourite movies is Pleasantville. It is such a great example of how drab, boring, dull, colorless, and predictable life would be without change. In the beginning, it appears to be so comfortable and “pleasant” to know how things will turn out, how your daily life will unfold and how nothing out of the ordinary will happen. It is amazing to watch what happens when things start to change, when something is done differently, when change becomes acceptable, and when some color is added to the scene. It’s as though the lives of these characters begin to transform, and life projects them into a colorful, passionate, and ever-changing 3D reality of life. I know that change is uncomfortable but there is a colorful, passionate 3D reality life waiting for you to embrace and enjoy, now go get it!