Thursday, December 30, 2010

Editing, then Miscellaneous Material

I started writing about editing here, about the process of editing my current long project, but then I thought, who cares? Most of the post could be compressed to this line:

Each time I am exhausted after revising only three hundred words I want to fall from the chair in such a way that my head knocks the edge of the desk.

But the bit that remains from that ghost post is my curiosity about how other people here edit. This question most directly applies to writers (I know Mike is well on his way through an edit of his novel) but I think it applies to everyone who has taken something and attempted to make it better. Do you go about this activity in an ordered way or in a wild frenzy? Do you finish a certain number of drafts, or just fly repeatedly through till you're bored of everything and its seeming (proximity to) perfection?

. . .

Today is a slow day in the office. I work in education in a capacity such that I am usually a teacher but I am sometimes other things and so have to be here even when the school is closed. It's slow. This entire room I'm in now (a large shared office) is quiet with the hushed typing of me and another, older version of me. I brought donuts today and they were a hit but now the leftovers sit in their little orange box like a trap. (And did you know bringing donuts to work is controversial? It makes sense.)

But if you do bring donuts to work, be sure to get more than one coconut donut. It is often the only donut worth eating. The coconut donut's worth is so far beyond that of other donuts that to read about it would waste your time.

(The only controversial donut-related event that has happened to me involved not donuts but the remains of donut breakfasts here. For a string of Saturday mornings one of the instructors in our building dropped off untouched Dunkin Donuts cardboard coffee urns with one of the women in the office, who didn't like coffee but knew I would swim in it, and she brought the coffee to me, and it was wonderful, this whole little reservoir to swallow, except that it was already bordering on too cold and then I raced through as much as I could before the whole amount had gone icy.)

A while back I wrote about retellings and, in the comments, spaced on the title of an upcoming anthology featuring nothing but retellings. Well, guess what: that book is called RE:Telling, and it will be released someday by Ampersand. The lineup is pretty solid, but if it hadn't convinced me, this interview with Heather Fowler would have. Her contribution is inspired by Updike's A&P. She says a lot about the story, like

...these girls, inappropriately dressed as they were, different as they were, had arrived at this mid-town A&P, nowhere near the shore, to buy some pickled herring snacks in sour cream. Herring snacks? Really?

Immediately, and always, I thought: They were not there for snacks, but on a mission!
Also the book's cover is kickass, so, there's that.


  1. I love that reading of herring snacks. I like putting references to awful food in my work so that maybe in 100 years people will wrestle with whether or not Vienna Sausages were meant as a real treat, back in 2010? Were they enough for someone to stand in a line for?

    I am kidding pretty much, though I did have something about Vienna Sausages in my book. I am slashing and burning through my book right now--just rewriting and writing new chapters like crazy. Usually my first drafts are pretty haphazard, and I need people to tell me the bare bones of what they got from it, what to shoot toward, etc., and then I reshape it and rewrite it pretty totally to make it better meet that aim. My thesis, when it gets turned back in, will be an almost entirely different book. I have a problem of never really know what I'm writing the first time around. Though sometimes, when the premise is weird enough, I kind of have to know what I'm attempting and I manage to get things pretty close the first time.

    But I know the feeling of poring over 300 words. I hate those days. It can be so hard to know if you've really accomplished anything.

  2. Tracy, I love the weird food references idea. And I have the same issue going along with a long project--I sometimes get a very firm idea of what it's about, or what the underlying thread is, like 70% of the way through. It's always thrilling and heartening, because usually I realize what the solution is because I've already slowly realized there's a problem that needs a solution. But it's difficult to start back at the beginning and say, ok, i'll weave this subtle thing through the narrative starting fresh at the start...