Not to be Reproduced.

magritte3not-to-be-reproduced

Self-reflection is hard.

 

Editing is hard not just because self-criticism is hard, but instead because it can be never-ending. It feels as though writing is never done, only done enough. Every time I go back on something I’ve written, anything, there are always tweaks to be made. Mark Twain was known to write edits and annotations in the margins of his already published novels, in a then common practice known as marginalia. I, too, find myself doing this almost any time I re-read something I’ve written.  The hard part isn’t the editing itself, it’s knowing when to stop editing.

Plenty has been written about the difficulties and necessities of calculated and detached editing, to be able to kill your darlings; and I’ll admit that this is hard to do. I’ve already had to cut, wholesale, an entire character and plot-line from the novel in this round of revisions in the name of brevity, wit, and streamlining the main plot. This is hard, but so is finding the balance between useful tweaking and obsessive re-working. There’s a compulsion to make every sentence perfect, because nothing is more harmful to creativity than good enough.

But there’s the rub. We are our own harshest critics, and at the same time, we can be our own greatest (and most harmful) champions. There’s an incredible narcissism to believing that you (or I) can be the one to tell the story, but that’s precisely where the discipline to be an honest and harsh critic and editor needs to come into play. It’s about a balance, a difficult and seemingly impossible balance, but one I’m hoping and trying to find.

-T

 

“…Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done—so I do it. And it makes me happy when I do it well.”

― Ernest Hemingway

Writing Drunk and Editing Sober.

Ernest Hemingway, a favorite writer of mine, is famously quoted as saying “Write drunk, edit sober.” It is no secret that Papa was a fan of alcohol, however, the amount to which it played a part in creating many of his masterpieces of prose is dubious at best. There is no disputing that Hemingway liked to drink, and there is no disputing that alcohol itself played a large part in the content of many of his greatest works (my favorite included), but it is surprising to learn that alcohol actually had very little to do with the creation of these same works.

“That’s not how he wrote,” Hemingway’s granddaughter Mariel Hemingway said in an interview, “he never wrote drunk, he never wrote beyond early, early morning.”

So if the man himself did not follow this advice, what can be gained from it? Well, a lot actually. First, there are many, many correctly attributed quotes about drinking from Hemingway; like “I drink to make other people more interesting,” which I happen to have engraved on my favorite flask. And secondly, there still might be some truth to the quote. There’s actually a surprising amount of science behind it, in fact. Drinking, in moderation (with a hard limit at .07% BAC), can help spur creativity by inhibiting that ever-present editor in the brain. What can be detrimental to conversation can be vital to writing creatively; without a filter, every idea can come out, good and bad, and that is where editing sober comes into play.

So, in conclusion, writing drunk and editing sober is good advice when not taken literally. To me, it means (whether tipsy or sober), to write uninhibited, and to edit diligently, and that’s advice for anyone.

-T

Meat & Potatoes

One of my favorite words is ampersand. It’s one of these ‘&.’The word ampersand comes from a contraction of the phrase ‘and per se and’ and the symbol used to be the 27th letter of the English alphabet taught to schoolchildren; the symbol is itself a contraction of the letters e and t, from ‘et,’ the Latin word for and (more on this fascinating story from the OED).

Anyway, the phrase ‘meat and potatoes’ refers to the main part of something, the unadulterated sustenance. For this blog, the meat and potatoes is me going through the editing and publishing process. This is going to be tough. I haven’t gone back to the book since the last time I sent out queries in the fall of 2016. Now is the time to get back though, to take all of the criticism, constructive and otherwise, and look at what I can do to make every word and every page count. Vonnegut was said to have obsessed for days on individual sentences, just to get his signature cadence just right. Fitzgerald worked and reworked his novels with trusted editor Maxwell Perkins for months until they reached perfection. And then there’s me looking up to those giants. But hey, if you look up to giants, you’ll always feel short.

“I remember when I used to think people our age were adults. I remember when I used to look up to my father. Now I’m taller than him.

When I was at the start of my junior year of high school, I really had no idea how much would change over the course of the next two years, I could never have imagined how Ken, Lila, the road trip, or any of it would change my life, but I’ll get to that and all that Holden Caulfield kind of crap about my younger and more vulnerable years later.

In short, I am a millennial. More specifically, I’m a 90’s kid. I am a member of the New Lost Generation, Generation Apathy, Generation Why; the kids that were around for Web 1.0 but were raised on 2. The generation that saw the technology around them grow faster than they did, born in a period of Unraveling and growing up in a time of Crisis. The last group of human beings to remember 9/11 as an event in their lives rather than a history lesson. The sons and daughters of the Baby-Boomers who stayed together for the kids. We are not just the outsiders or the inbetweeners, we are the lost.

But that’s just Juvenoia at work.”

This is the opener of my novel; four paragraphs that I’ve spent many many hours working and reworking to get just right, because first impressions are important, and opening lines are even more important. Let me know what you think of this beginning, as I begin again my journey into more editing. And yes, it’s a YA novel as I’ve said, and I’m not trying to write literature, but I am trying to write well.

-T