a dr. weiner post
Writing is a craft, it’s true. But so is editing. Writing should always begin as process writing. Then we think of editing in term of the way Ezra Pound so brilliantly approached it, cutting the fat even out of Eliot’s Waste Land. However, this approaches it from the outside in.
Let me give you an analogy. Imagine yourself with a fatty roast or steak, bought on the theory that fat would, excised, result in a juicier entre. All the while, though—the writer in you is averse to “fat.” [Love of animals makes you wince.] Boldly, you trim it, boldly, tossing thick slabs out of sight. You grind them up by flipping a switch. The Glade’s no afterthought. What is left the Brilliant Center.
The Alternative Route:
This is to find the ripe and pungent center first. Impulsively you can do this. Read the thing, yours or someone else’s. Take a bold-colored Orange marker (or pencil or your favorite color mine is orange from the set of 24 colored pencils). Read the thing with the utensil in your hand. Let your guts run away with you, in this editing guise. Read with your heart, your guts and your pen, and when you find the Center, tender spot/OR when that Killing field strikes you dead; or when you find that thought that boxes your ears and jolts your brain, so that your frontal lobe is suddenly passive and amazed, limp and ecstatic….BING–Circle it, asterisk it, put a box around it, put X’s; O’s and smiley faces! Place multi-colored cartoon inventions of your own with word blurbs of thrill in their bubbles of talk! I say, Go for the Center first! And when you have found it, Exclaim that this is it, this is the core to the greatness of the ‘thing’: essay, poem, story, NSF grant.
FYI: In most cases, the core of the piece will also be its best written part. Put it up on the screen, whether it’s yours or someone else’s; never failing to keep that core at the center, even as you contemplate and suggest changes.
Create a second, tinier screen, say 4 X 4. Pause to take delight in it, as delight is an impulsive response and impulse brings the editing act to life! Within this tiny box you now own, sketch what the essay will look like (please don’t mind if I cal it “essay” when I mean, the written piece), using words or bullet points or AutoCAD—if it has this application. Consider: the living room as centerpiece of your imaginary dwelling, where, after dinner everyone sits with a book, laptop, iPad, or cat, and simply enjoys the center because it is the center.
Into this box, move “key phrases lines” from the original/draft, and find their ideal place among the others you are going to save, because they are of a piece, by trail and error, I mean by literally trying them out everywhere, until, when you stand back and the others do, a sense of calm, order, meaning, and coherence describe the room.
If you are this person who has followed this script so far, you are a rebel with a cause.
Then go back to writing and expand and fill in everything you can say that appeals to our senses and our thoughts on that core. Then plug in the lead up and take away parts. Then edit once again. You have become an impulsive editor, loving every minute of it.
H. Weiner, CEO/Founder CambridgeEditors….”at the foot of the BU Bridge”