Thursday, May 3, 2012

Caught in the Draft

When an editor—a real editor, with book and magazine/journal experience—says frog, you are apt to jump, but you are definite about listening.  Agreeing with an editor is the tip of an enormous iceberg.  You often do agree, but with equal regularity, you are a potential for doing something well beyond the editor’s take on what you’d already done.

The point here is that an experienced, intelligent question suggests the need for a door in a heretofore door-less wall.  If not a door, then perhaps a window is needed—or a vent.

The further point is that your vision clouds on occasion; a professional spots the cloud, suggests ways to incorporate it into the narrative landscape or remove the could or—or get you thinking about why a trope or sentence or paragraph or scene or character does not do its proper work.

In all the time you’ve been publishing short fiction, there were only two times an editor called you out on issues.  The first time, the editor said she’d publish a particular story if you cut the first scene, which wasn’t necessary.  Although you hadn’t agreed at the time, you thought ahead to the time when you could include the story in question within a collection, restoring the missing scene.

Sure, let’s start with the second scene.  This opened a door in the fabric of the universe.  The magazine went bust before your story was published.  Another magazine took on the story, which, by then, you’d tweaked a bit to make it more necessary.

Another situation involved a waitress in a truck stop eatery who wears seamed nylons.  In rebuttal to you sending the editor photos of 2012 ads showing seamed nylons for sale, the editor’s reply was, nevertheless, seamed nylons have a retro sound to them.  Women are highly unlikely to wear them.  Okay.

Fiction or nonfiction, in particular when the manuscript grows thicker, you are well programmed to listen.  You no longer feel secure refusing to listen, even though the comments have to do with a landscape of your own creation.

The charges you hurl about regarding the obsessive, compulsive, control- freak natures of writers do not in any way prevent those afflictions from attaching themselves to you.  Knowing this about other writers and yourself, knowing also that the more perfect-sounding manuscript tends to emerge from uncounted authorial drafts before and possibly after editing, adds to the awareness rather than mere acceptance of the absolute lack of perfection in the human species.

You find yourself amazed at the time you need to produce what you consider a competent, clear-headed manuscript.  Of equal amazement, however, is the relatively scant amount of time beginning writers think to devote to a work in progress.

Writers do not gravitate toward books or courses in which the editorial promise has to do with learning how apply shrewd self-editing techniques.  Writers wish to spread their metaphoric wings, then feel the lift of inspiration as they tuck in their feet to reduce drag before the serious flapping begins and the glide is on.

All about us are the slogans of words and ideas being cheap.  The values inhere in time spent in revision, or somehow listening along to the text so it may be assessed with a serious focus rather than an exuberant dash to the finish line.

You believe in the possibility of having it both ways, where words and ideas are by no means cheap, they have been given an extraordinary value by the writers who take the time to see the basic elements coalesce in that seamless flow of narrative waiting somewhere in the next draft.

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