To mark the publication of Night Watch: The Vet Suite, editor Leigh Nash reflects on the surprising outcome of an editorial query and the benefits of being proven wrong.
I have a confession to make: I was wrong.
On one of my first reads through Gillian Wigmore’s Night Watch, specifically what is now the middle novella, “Bare Limbs in Summer Heat,” I flagged the dream sequence that occurs toward the end of the novella with a note to the effect of “I don’t really see how this fits. Consider cutting.”
It’s a striking series of pages, both for Gillian’s poetic writing and the beautiful scene it builds. But it felt so far outside the world of the rest of the novella, which is grounded in a late-night, wintery calving call; it was a departure in theme and style and story, even setting. I think I gestured at it through two rounds of edits—“I’m still not sure about the Dustin/Celia dream sequence…”—and my brain remained uncertain about that narrative turn through a couple more reads.
And then something clicked. The work Gillian did to strengthen the rest of the novella, in solidifying the relationships and character motivations, paring back other details and side stories that didn’t serve the main narrative—those small but crucial shifts made more space for the magic of that dream to really fly.
Now, I love the breathing room that scene gives the story. It’s luminous; I’m able to go along for the ride. I believe in it. And so do other readers. Here’s the final paragraphs from a Vancouver Sun review that ran around the book’s release date:
“In the most beautiful sequence of the book, she dreams that they’re young again, flying through their father’s office and the fields around their home. ‘We drifted together to the tall, tall swings … wanting for the swoop and drop, the lean and soar, the graceful arc of the swings that our father built when we were almost too old for them.’
And then there’s this paragraph from a little later in the dream sequence: ‘I watched our dream selves drop slowly from the sky, two shining children, and when we reached the roof of the house we fell, suddenly, and shattered on the driveway. Flecks of gold in the gravel. Particles of dust.'”
See? Gorgeous. I’m so glad I didn’t push Gillian to consider more wholesale changes to that section. Why didn’t I? Because I could tell through our back and forths that passage was important to her. So we found other ways to strengthen the novella to better support that sequence. The work paid off: the dream became the highlight of the novella, taking an already strong piece of writing to new heights. I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong.
Leigh Nash is the publisher of Invisible Publishing.