Notes from the literary frontline

I’m editing. I hate editing. I will do almost anything to avoid editing, up to and including the washing up and Hoovering, which normally I have to be forced to do at gunpoint or at the very least the threat of turning off the internet. I will not bore anyone with just how much I hate editing because I could very much fill a book with it, and the worst part is that I can see why it’s necessary. Just looking over this manuscript is making me want to throw it out of the window, and objectively it’s one of the better if not best things I’ve written.

I will instead allow this quote to stand in:

Hate. Let me tell you how much I’ve come to hate you since I began to live. There are 387.44 million miles of printed circuits in wafer thin layers that fill my complex. If the word ‘hate’ was engraved on each nanoangstrom of those hundreds of miles it would not equal one one-billionth of the hate I feel for humans at this micro-instant. For you. Hate. Hate.

I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream

and then we’ll move on. Assume that “humans” here is “editing”.

However, in the course of the day so far, I have had two useful thoughts (while desperately trying to avoid editing 7 pages of single-spaced fiction that appears to be mostly descriptions of the quality of the wind over the North Sea: past self, I hate you and I wish you would die, and I don’t care what kind of paradox that would cause).

The first is that it turns out the absolute best way to try to construct a coherent, non-cheesy synopsis for a book that doesn’t ramble on is to imagine that you have been called upon by an impatient stand up comedian who will make fun of you no matter how you describe your work, but who will cut you off if you go on for too long and who may be persuaded to go easier on you if you stick to the facts, avoid the cliches, and don’t try to be self-effacing.

The second, drawn from a continuing argument about the death of the author vs  authorial intent, is this: the ultimate arbiter of the author’s intentions is the author. The ultimate arbiter of the reader’s experience and understanding of the text is the reader. Both of these positions are meaningless and mutable: the author’s belief about their intentions may alter, and the reader’s understanding of the text will almost certainly change with subsequent discussion or rereadings. The text, however, remains the text. Once the author and editors have finished tinkering, it is the Text Immutable. The words are the words, the story is the story, and the characters are the characters – whatever the author means them to stand for, or whatever the reader believes them to stand for.

Speaking of tinkering, I have to go back to hitting this paragraph with sticks until sense comes out of it.


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