Friday, March 19, 2010
Last night, toward the close of my talk at Rosemont College (what a fine group of people), a question came up from the very back row: Can you tell us about how you go about editing?
I answered thusly: The work begins with paper and pen, scribbled at some strange hour in handwriting I can barely interpret a day or so later. I then rewrite my scribbles, still with pen, making numerous changes as I go. Next I'm on the computer, typing things in, and here again, every sentence is weighed, and many are shifted. Two pages at a time, typically, and when the next two pages are layered in, they never quite fit with the first two pages, so editing begins again in earnest. Every time new pages come in, I'm reading back, several pages, then reading forward, to help achieve a seamlessness. And all of that leads to a first draft, which is only a first draft and never nearly a whole.
It is creating the whole, I indicated, that is in the end the hardest thing. It's easy to write sentences. It's possible to write passages. Often chapters congeal. Books, entire books, remain, to me, a mystery. Sometimes I get there. Sometimes I don't. My drawers are littered with lovely passages that never found their home.