Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Editing Metaphor and ROW 80 Check-In

I want to start with a metaphor for editing. It is a piece of writing that has been used as a metaphor for many things, and I have to admit that the author probably did not mean it to refer to the writing process. Though he was an English professor himself, so might appreciate the use. 

It comes from C.S. Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader, chapter 7. The most irritating character in the entire book is a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrub, and as the narrator notes 'he almost deserved it.' Part way through the book, for those of you who don't know it, Eustace becomes a dragon. 

I think that often when we are trying to write a book, our first draft is as rough and ungainly as a dragon, though we wish it to be slim and delicate like a child.  So how do we go from one state to the other?

Have a read of the conversation between Eustace and his cousin Edmund, when Eustace is found to be a boy again.

'Well, as I say, I was lying awake and wondering what on earth would become of me. And then - but, mind you, it may have been all a dream. I don't know."
"Go on," said Edmund, with considerable patience.

"Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn't that kind of fear. I wasn't afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it - if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn't any good because it told me to follow it."

"You mean it spoke?"

"I don't know. Now that you mention it, I don't think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I'd have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I'd never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden - trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.

"I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells - like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don't know if he said any words out loud or not.

"I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

"But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So 1 scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

"Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

"Then the lion said" - but I don't know if it spoke - "You will have to let me undress you." I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

"The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know - if you've ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away."

"I know exactly what you mean," said Edmund.

"Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.
Then he caught hold of me - I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on - and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again."

Editing, I believe, should always start with our own efforts. But not just scratching off a few words here and a few words there, but deep raking cuts that rip out entire sections. We should do that again and again until we can do no more. Then we must give it over to someone else, because we will rarely edit down til it hurts, and it is only then that you get through to the delicate message underneath. 
Editing is a hard lesson to learn, but so worth it when you have the chiseled, perfect product in front of you. 

I hope that imagery worked as well for you as it did for me.

ROW 80 Check-in:

I'm currently working away being a busy little bee, probably in a few too many areas of my life.

1. Starting last Friday, and continuing until this Sunday I'm volunteering at the Melbourne Writers Festival. This has been fun, and allowed me to go to other talks for free. However I have to admit that the 4-5 hour shifts, especially when they involve something thrilling like standing in foyer pointing people towards the appropriate rooms and not being able to sit down, do have their drawbacks. I've actually only had two shifts so far, and another on tomorrow and Friday, but they leave me exhausted. Having said that, it is great knowing what is happening in the Australian writing scene, who's who, and what works are coming out. 

2. At the beginning of this week I started my next two week draft: The Five Day Writer's Bootcamp, the sequel to Retreat. It's going well, and I'm enjoying writing it because some of the ideas that come out are novel to me too! I hope to get the first draft completed by the end of the next week, and then the goal is to have it published by the end of September, depending on if one of my editors has time to go through it. I'm off to a writing conference on the 11th of October. I plan to get a table so I can sell copies of Retreat and Bootcamp, as well as other books I've helped produce, if I can.

3. The project for last fortnight was The Nice Guy's Guide To Online Dating Profiles. As I actually only spent a week on it, it was not completely done. I had scheduled this week and next to edit it in the evenings (after writing, working on my business, and doing all those annoying life things). I think I should be able to get it finished and edited in that time. This is not an important project, but just something I think will help a lot of men out there. It will only be in e-book format, and hopefully should be live by the end of September as well. 

4. I've been working on a few business projects. I'm still editing my aunt's novella: A Mother's Story, and haven't gotten that up yet. However, I hope to do so as soon as possible. I've also finally sent off for my US tax exemption identity number so Amazon and Smashwords only take 5% instead of 30%. It was one of those things that once I got myself organised, didn't take that long, but was just difficult to work out what to do and where to look etc. It's now going to take about 10 weeks before I actually hear back. So, lets hope I filled in the paperwork correctly!

5. The other big news in my life at the moment is that I signed a break lease contract last week, and I'm moving out of my (beautiful) apartment to be nomadic until the end of the year. Mostly this was to keep costs down so I can give myself a decent shot at making it before having to get some other work. So I've had open for inspections Monday, Tuesday and today. Trying to keep my place perfectly clean for 3 days in a row has been a bit of a strain. However, it looks like they have found a great tenant, who will be able to move in just 10 days later than I wanted (considering the other possibility was that we found no one and I had to pay rent for months and months while not living there, this is great). Because I know ahead of time, I'm not going to move out for an extra week, so I get to enjoy my place for a little bit longer. 

But in two weeks time I'm going to have to start the big clear out and pack. I'm hoping to do a major sort and declutter, giving away all the extra things I'm not going to use for quite a while. But this will take a lot of time going through everything, deciding what to keep and what to throw out, making sure it is clean to be packed into storage or given away, etc. However, once it's all done, it will feel great, like having a dragon skin removed! 

Luckily I have nothing else planned for September, though in October things start to get busy again. I'm organising advertising for my weekend intensive. Here's a flyer I've made up today. What do you think?  It's going to be A5, is it easy enough to read? Does it make you want to come to the country and write? Any suggestions?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, big changes afoot! Best of luck with the move. Will you have someone to help you?

    The flier text looks fine. I can read it no problem. The background is clear and doesn't obscure the text. In terms of the subject of the workshop, self publishing, the background may not promote this. It's more of an editing or how to write image. Then again, I'm not a graphic designer, so take my thoughts with a pinch of salt. :-)

    All the best.