Friday, March 10, 2017

Literary Selfies

Each time you printout a draft of a story or essay for a personal editorial review,you resume an on-going argument with yourself. This argument continues until you pass the material along to its destination and, perhaps, yet another editorial review from another source. If there is a subsequent argument, the cause brings yet another form of discussion.

Self-editing, at this presubmission point, relates to what stays in the text and what departs; it also relates to how and where the remains will be placed. Thus, line editing, which is not so much a problem as the specific questions of what stays and what goes.

The focus becomes a judgment on whether a specific word earns its keep in the piece. Does it justify being case? Os it a frivolous or decorative detail? Does it reflect your vaingloriousness as a person or have you reached the place where you believe you've sent all those tropes packing? Do the remains contribute to a smooth narrative flow, or do they hit the speed bump of distraction?

Your solution to the ever present question is a careful replay of the sentence in which the suspect word appears. In essence, you're scanning each word in each sentence. Then you scan each sentence in context with its previous and following cohort. In doing so, you often remind yourself of Philip Roth's character, the writer E. I. Lonoff, a man who once described his work as pushing words around until he found the correct order.

Any of Roth's characters is a plateau toward which you understand you must strive, with no chance of achievement. Lonoff joins an ensemble cast of fictional individuals whom you are delighted to study.

Sometimes, when you're reading to an audience, or other times when a reader comments on your use of language, you recognize the suspicion you feel when the writing style is mentioned first. Loved your use of language. Wrong thing to hear first. Okay if that complement comes after the likes of Fine story, or Moving essay.

You strive for the best possible effect, whether fiction or essay. Your way of judging response is how effective was the discovery, if the work were fiction; how clear the articulation of argument or analysis in the case of essay.

Bustling within your narrative toolkit, much like eager puppies bent on an investigative spree, are your fondness for puns, metaphor, and simile. At the time of composition, you can almost feel the squirt of adrenaline when one or more of these emerges or some previously unseen connection brings two objects of first-blush disparity into a connection. This is your reward for having begun the work in the first place and your hoped for outcome when beginning.

That said, you are not adverse to being understood and for at the same time having amused or taken the reader off the deterministic path of the logical succession of paragraphs, each with its topic sentence and subsequent auxiliaries.

Your first goal is to be read all the way through.

Your next goal is to have been understood, followed by your wish to provoke and evoke feelings appropriate to the text. If you can come away from your self-editing with the sense of success to any degree, you approximate the sense that the work and then the rework has been worthwhile.

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