Thursday, September 3, 2015

Editing: Time Travel, Telekinesis and Leaning

I’ve been editing something this week. Not a close, line by line edit; I’ve already done that to this particular thing recently. This was the kind of edit where you try to step back and see it as a whole. Structurally, looking at construction and flow. But you still have to read it, right? For me, the way to do it is to read quickly, with maybe half your attention, not allowing yourself to get sucked into the celebration of a particular word, line or feeling. And at the end, start again at the beginning. Round and round. The effect is not unlike one of those fair rides. (Also, both will make you sick if you do it for too long.)
In this dizzying process, I’ve noticed a few things about my characters.
1.      They have the ability to speed up time. The scene starts and they have, perhaps, opened a bottle of wine. A few sentences later, they’re ready for a second glass. There was no talk of gulping or chugging and yet, inexplicably, they’ve finished. I think this happens because the writing of the scene takes so long it seems like they should be done. Either that, or writing makes you want to drink.
2.      They can telekinetically move objects through space. One of my characters took her sweater off when she arrived at a house party, then had the sweater later, then somehow lost it again by the end of the night and the host had to retrieve it. Why she was so obsessed with that stupid sweater is another whole issue.
3.       They say “Oh” a lot. And “well,” and “all right” (although I still think it should be “alright”). Don’t get me wrong—I think real people say these things in conversation all the time (also: “okay,” “you know,” and “literally,”) but that doesn’t mean anyone wants to see them in a book.
4.      They lean a lot. This is usually when they’re talking to someone. They lean on countertops and across tables to make a point. They lean against walls and cars, and sometimes, they lean into another person when they’re feeling romantic. I started to wonder about all of this leaning, and whether I had a bunch of fatigued characters on my hands.
To be honest, I felt myself wanting to lean against something by the time I was finished. It’s exhausting, trying to get these people in line. And now that I’m done, I feel like you do after that spinning ride at the fair—exhilarated, disoriented, and ready for a corn dog.

1 comment:

  1. It's usually the editor who notices the overuse of words. So embarrassing. The're like earworms, the songs that sneak into our minds and we hum them without noticing. How to bridge time in a novel? I had in mind to write a post on 'Notes of a Cinematographer' by Robert Bresson. What becomes transformed from one scene to another. Repetition plays a part, not of words, but of an image, a colour, a movement, a sound, for the sake of rhythm. My writing might have been influenced by film in that respect.


"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka