Posts Tagged editing

Should be the easiest thing.

Just land the plane, already.

Book Three.


As revising goes, it’s so simple. Nothing much to carry in your head, not much by way of artistic issue. Just a press-your-butt-into-the-chair kind of job to do.

You set up a synchronized scroll, get the page widths right. Then all you have to do is roll to the next red mark, and accept or reject the edit. But there is something intensely and unavoidably personal at stake. An editor has the key to your sock drawer. She sees all, knows all. Consistency, Chicago style, agreement, continuity: all that is purely technical, semi-mechanical.

“Candlestick maker, so much more, Sarah Felicity?”
“No doubts, a clean machine.” Felicity picksed rice from the tight black curls of her hair.
“Can anyone say we should not continue?”
Danni coughsed. “The issues not addressed? Sliding on the easy?”
“We can only say,” Dulce speaokse calmly, with decision, “we have weighed what could be weighed and have elected to flop together into a shared future.”
“Baby come out white, ready for that?” Danni asksed.
“Every baby,” Carrie answersed, “is her own miracle.” It iwas easy to grab Harris under her arms, because her fists awere raised as she chargesd at Danni. Carrie liftsed her off the ground so her feet haved no purchase, though they scrambled against the air for a second. Carrie liftsed her sister high and locksed eyes. She turnsed slowly to the left, all the way around, and lowersed her into place. She bendst to kiss the top of Harris’s head and speaokse very softly. “It’s good, my wild one, really. It is all good.” She brushesd the back of her hand gently down the cheek of her other sister, standing rigid by Harris, hands clenched at her sides. “Dear Syd, it is love working. Trust!”
Savion’s voice boomsed. “Baker!”
Gene saysid, “Good as it can be, way better than most. I bless, with my full authority.” His sisters’ eyes awere wide;, they haved never heard him speak so many words at once.
Savion. “Butcher!”
Danni saysid, “I have proved the rule. I accede, stipulating there will be trials.”

      But the higher value, and the deeper fright, comes in the comments:

            What does this mean? I get the Star Wars reference, but I don’t know the second meaning.

A process you have chosen, engaged with, paid for. But can you bear it to the end, 350 pages more?



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Character driven.

      Whenever I’ve gotten seriously stuck in a story, almost always it is a character who takes my hand and leads me through. Generally it’s a character already established in the story, with all the attributes necessary to solve the problem already attributed. An author has to trust the characters, and sometimes get out of their way.

      We make up the stories, to begin with. But once underway a true story (true fiction) will be found to contain what its telling takes. The characters, once set in motion, in a context, live out their tale. Authors are not stenographers for a muse. But that’s often not a terrible metaphor for the first draft of a story. Nor are we editors who clean up the wordy mess the muse has spewed, unreadalbe until tightened and focused, or who flesh out the telegraphic hints the muse has tapped onto the wire. But sometimes it feels that way.

      There’s never any help, taking the first to the finished draft. That’s all on us. And it is a long, long grind: letter by letter, word by word, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter. You don’t do it once. You do it relentlessly, over and over. Ten times, end to end, is probably a good average number of passes.

      By the time all that’s done, we have no doubt our names belong on the cover. But sometimes, during that wild giddy wondorous first phase, we’re sure we should be sharing the credit with … well, somebody or something not entirely of our making.

      But then we think how dumb it would sound, to share with our own characters. Dumb, except maybe to another author.

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