Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The axe, laid aside, is taken up again

In 1951 a five-line paragraph about a jumble sale appeared in a Bradford newspaper and I was paid 1d (one penny) a line for it. That thrill of having work printed has never gone away.

American Ikaros is about Kevin Andrews author of The Flight of Ikaros, described by Patrick Leigh Fermor as “One of the great and lasting books about Greece”. I didn’t write it, Jinks did. I edited it over two years. But what is editing?

Many think it is checking spelling and adding (more likely, taking out) commas. It is of course cutting but it is also deciding not to cut. Jinks chose a structure in which certain chapters stood chronologically outside, and even overlapped, other chapters. Aiming for clarity I was against this; familiarity eventually persuaded me. On the other hand Jinks has an individual tone of voice and cutting ensured it wasn’t obscured.

Editing is an endless dialogue. Here’s part of an email I sent Jinks after receiving my copy: “I tested it by half-closing my eyes, opening it randomly and reading the first passage I encountered - asking whether it could be the work of someone who wrote professionally. It passed this highly subjective test easily.”

I didn’t do this for money, nor because I was attracted by the story which, half-written, arrived as a right old mess. I did it because I knew I could withstand the two-year grind which is something only an editor could appreciate. The half case of burgundy was welcome but not necessary.

MEANWHILE Editing AmIk suggested I should be writing my own stuff. The draft of the novel is 2000 – 3000 words from completion. Then I’ll edit it. Always distrust first efforts as we editors say.

Novel progress 21/4/10. Ch. 21: 0 words. Chs. 1 - 20: 90,849 words. Comments: Final chapter now starts.