Tag Archives: editing

Write on Mamas – New Anthology

Hello Dogpatchers! I just read this blog post by an editor/writer from a group called Write on Mamas. They are professional writers (and those just beginning their writing journey) in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. I think the post contains some valuable insights about “beautiful writing” and what the editor learned while shepherding the group’s first anthology into publication.

So often, a piece can be beautifully written  (crafted) but feel lacking. A loooooo-n-g time ago, I took a poetry workshop and spent a great portion of the time discussing whether certain poems had “duende.” Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of the word:

Duende or tener duende (“having duende”) loosely means having soul, a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity, often connected with flamenco[1] The artistic and especially musical term was derived from the duende, a fairy or goblin-like creature in Spanish mythology.

I think this is sometimes the missing element in what would otherwise be called “beautiful writing.” So here’s hoping you are all out there inviting that little fairy goblin into your work.

Link to the blog post:

http://writeonmamas.com/tips-on-editing/

Write on Mamas’ new anthology:

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Death to Backstory – So That My Manuscript May Live

Time is running out! April 2 is the deadline to submit your applications for the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. So finish scrubbing that manuscript and hit the “submit” button now!

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I’ve been revising two stories and trying to decide which one to submit. Laurel helped me make the decision, and for that I’m forever grateful! But before I send it, she suggested I remove almost all of the backstory.

I’d sent an earlier version to Zoetrope ages ago, and I’d received a hand written note on the form rejection letter that said something like: “You’ve created a couple of memorable characters, but you should rethink how much of this story needs to be on the page.”

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Say what?!

Ok, so it finally sank in when the news came from Laurel, my trusted colleague. I pulled out my book, The Artful Edit, by Susan Bell, and then read my story as if I were encountering it for the first time. I took out some backstory, and then read it again.

The story wasn’t missing anything. In fact, it read better, tighter. It killed me, but I cut some more. And then I read it again.

The story didn’t miss those cuts, either. In fact, it read cleaner, meaner. It killed me, but I cut some more…

Before I started this process, the story ran about 6,200 words. For the Squaw submission, I had revised it down to about 5,000 (max word count allowed) before giving it to Laurel to read . After her comments, I cut another 1,200 words. For those who love math, my story lost nearly 40% of its weight in excess fat—

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but it could probably lose a few more pounds before I ship it off.

Hemingway has famously said: “I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows.”

photo credit: 123RF_lightwise

Um, he was right!

But it is sooooo HARD!!! I love my two main characters, because they are so weird and so misguided. I had such fun with their backstory, they just kept getting more and more interesting—to me. I read the story out loud to myself. I thought, can you believe these two? Aren’t they hysterical? How can I cut that?

My iceberg was sitting on top of the water.

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Here’s a sample outtake:

Her anger at Charlie had been cubby-holed in that part of her mind where she kept unpleasant thoughts such as her dissatisfaction with her marriage, gruesome murders she’d read about in the Daily Picayune, and repentance for her own sinful acts such as dancing in the living room, her occasional nip of sherry and whatever weakness in her character kept her from successfully reforming her husband. The Lord knew about Elvis’s power over her, and Elvis and the Lord were long acquainted. Whenever she listened to Elvis sing “How Great Thou Art,” she pictured him in heaven, sitting with Jesus at God’s feet. His songs always helped her put things into perspective—or the cubbyhole. All these years, he had been her one true savior—not that he had replaced the Good Lord in her prayers. Like Mary to Catholics, Elvis was an additional comfort to the soul.

But as it turns out, the pain was worth it. The more I cut, the more the cuts were “contained” in what remained.

It's a miracle!!

It’s a miracle!!

 

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Oh Editor, Where Art Thou?

Well folks, I’m back in the ‘hood! Entire buildings in Mission Bay and Dogpatch (two neighborhoods in San Francisco) were either razed or raised over the past five weeks during my holiday. Gone tooooooo long!

I read a few books while traipsing about the countryside. Here’s one that was recommended to me by another writer I met at the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop:

The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself

Bell covers everything from “Gaining Perspective” on your work, to the difference between macro and micro editing. She provides specific examples of how to gain perspective (some you may have heard of or tried before, but others may be new). I think the two most helpful chapters offer checklists for macro (intention, character, structure, etc.) and micro (language, redundancy, clarity, etc.) editing along with examples and discussion of timing for each approach.

Although Bell tends to be a little wishy-washy in her stances, I believe it’s her attempt to say “this may not work for you” or “it may be difficult to do this but you must try.” I also think that she struggles with the very issue she attempts to address: when the writer and editor are the same person, it can be profoundly difficult to do both effectively. Although this book may be helpful to you, I would suggest that you read it and then hand it to your beta reader(s) and have them use it to guide their responses.

I did find the exchanges between F. Scott Fitzgerald and his editor, Max Perkins, especially interesting. It shows how much a good editor can influence a manuscript at both the macro and micro levels.

Bell takes a chapter to broaden her scope, showing how two artists in other fields edit their work: Walter Murch (film and sound editor for movies such as The Godfather series, Apocalypse Now, and The English Patient) and Mitch Epstein (a photographer whose style “brings to mind a marriage of Edward Hopper and Jean-Luc Godard”). I don’t think, however, that the interviews with other writers in this chapter offer much new insight.

She then closes the book with a chapter on the history of editing, interesting but not necessarily helpful for the writer who wants to edit his/her own work.

Overall, I think it’s worth the $15.95 investment. It’s a quick read, and I do think it will not only help me weed out some of my more obvious errors, it will make me a better editor for others’ manuscripts.

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Four of Everything!

I love the idea of four! Four elements in nature, the four humors of old, four score and seven years ago, my doggie has four legs.When developing a piece of writing, a writer might consider four aspects that come into play, at the onset or eventually.

  • AudienceWho is the audience for the material?
  • ConceptWhat is the vision of the piece, its message?
  • FormHow is the message of the piece presented? As a poem, in novel form? Furthermore, within the larger categories of form, what specific genre and styles are used?
  • FormatIf published or presented, what is the packaging? Hard-cover printed book, e-book, online post, etc.

from http://www.particleadventure.org
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A writer may decide the first aspect to which she relates is concept, asking herself what is the truth she’s seeking and message she’s delivering in creating a piece. For an editor, or from a publisher’s standpoint, the paramount question is, practically, about audience. Who’s going to buy the thing so we can all get paid? Continue reading

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