Sunday, January 03, 2010

Not Sure What This Post Is About Yet... I'll just wing it.

I've been working a lot today--not on anything new (as I should be) but on the print galleys for The Reckoning of Asphodel. My very first book in the Asphodel Cycle will be available soon in trade paperback.  As soon as I have more particulars (release date, et cetera) I'll let you know.

But right now, I find myself in a peculiar position.  I haven't really sat down and read the first book since right after it was released (August 10, 2007--here's the link). So today, as I'm going through the print galleys, my editorial ren pencil finger is itching like there's been poison ivy on my keyboard. You know what I really want?

I want to revise the whole darn thing.

Now I realize I can't do that.  Doesn't make me want to do it any less. I actually spent a few minutes trying to figure out how to hack into the adobe program and fix things myself. (Didn't take long to dissuade me; I can turn on my computer and that's about it.) It's amazing how much a writer's voice can change in such a relatively short period of time.  I've noticed this with some of the writers I edit, but I was almost traumatized by how much my own voice has matured.  I mean think about it--Reckoning  came out a little less than two and half years ago and to my eyes the narrative voice is almost unrecognizable.  Removing the high narrative style I chose by design for the books (mostly so I could mature it throughout the course of the books) the differences between then and now are staggering.

I love adverbs now. I really loved them then.  Dialogue tags make me gag a little now; not the case back in the day.  And comma addiction? I had it. Not so much anymore.

Hell, I even used the Oxford comma back then whereas now I would rather gnaw off my arm at the shoulder.


A lot of these changes, I attribute to my editors. The common usage mistakes I made, they've trained out of me by this point. Every manuscript presents some other new quirk they have to strive to eliminate.  And now, as I work with the authors that I edit, I contribute this new-found knowledge to correct the same mistakes in their writing. 

Kind of whacked.

For example, lately I've been harping on my writers that separate their readers from the action by using sensing verbs.  "I saw someone do something" as opposed to "someone did something"--basically, making the action more pertinent by sinking the reader deeper into the narrative point of view.  The reader knows whose point of view they're reading; if the narrative states that "someone did something" it's assumed that the narrator saw that.

Yep. You guessed it.  "I saw" and "I felt" and "I heard" litter that story like confetti in Times Square on New Year's Day.

So this has made me think about the role of the editor in the writing process, and I've realized that there's a quite definite and traceable chain of editing which sifts from editor to writer to editor.  Quirks that I identify in my writers' work will, in turn, become quirks they self-identify in their manuscripts or, if they become editors too, in the work of the writers they critique or edit themselves.  These quirks are essentially what instigates the ever-progressing evolution of language.

That's probably why passive writing became passe, why the exclamation point was poo-pooed and the ceaseless argument over the Oxford comma was begun in the first place.

Makes the role of an editor seem a lot more important when you look at it that way, doesn't it?  I'm not saying this to give myself a big ol' pat on the back, but as an observation of the inconstancy of the English language. The rules we have now are not the same rules that Faulkner followed, or Wilde or Dickens or Austen.  Each age of literature was different from the one that preceded it, and the next one will kill off some of the contemporary and fashionable quirks we employ today--quirks that future writers and editors will call cumbersome and old-fashioned.

(Jst plz--not txtspk, I bg u.)

I'm hoping this will give me a little more perspective as I move into a new year of both editing and writing. I'm also hoping that on these upcoming manuscripts, I'll remember to keep my quirks to myself so my editor will stay off my back.

Vain hopes, but what the hey?  I have to use all the ellipses I can before they go out of style, editorialized into oblivion...