Friday, August 29, 2014

Architecture and Design

by Elizabeth

My oldest sister is an interior designer (don't get me started on the model home she once decorated with a French au pair suite and third floor office with a female mannequin toggling a cigar--wow!), and her husband is an architect. I always thought it would be cool if one day they went into business together, sort of one-stop shopping for home-seekers. Maybe their son would become a builder and the business would be complete.

This post, before editing
On my latest jaunt to the library, I scored a copy of The Artful Edit, Susan Bell's book coaching self-editing. I'm still reading, but already some of the ideas she introduces have made me think, and think hard. What a great resource, though: to be able to edit oneself. Not, of course, to eliminate the need for an editor, but to push a manuscript that much further along, and free up both the writer and the editor to achieve more because so much has already been achieved. Bell uses the example of The Great Gatsby and F. Scott Fitzgerald's relationship with his editor Max Perkins. (I'm pretty sure I recognized Perkins' name before perusing Bell's book in the stacks, but now I know I have to seek out another writer's work, Scott Berg, for his biography of Perkins.) I'm still early on in the book, but I have to say, it's heartening to know what went into that vaunted book, and what both writer and editor achieved in the process.

So what does this have to do with my sister's family? My vocational vision for them popped into my head when I read these lines of Bell's: "If writing builds the house, nothing but revision will complete it. One writer needs to be two carpenters: a builder with mettle, and a finisher with slow hands." A plan for a manuscript is one thing; a first draft another altogether; and a book? A novel? It is far, far more than a draft, much more like a furnished house complete with curtains and dishes and pictures on the walls. As for the clutter that makes it a home, newspapers on the breakfast table and food in the fridge? That is what the reader brings, I suppose. But if the writer himself can both build and decorate, and then turn to the editor, how much more efficient? How much more true?

My current MS is now in the hands of a fourth beta reader, and even as she reads through it, my mind is busy with the ideas Bell has introduced (or maybe just reinforced?). Sure, I'm counting on my  critique partners, but having confidence in myself, and acquiring the tools to justify that confidence--that's even better.

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