In Which The Edits Swallow Our Heroine

18 March 2003

I think I know what it is about these edits: I really feel like they're integral to telling the story I wanted to tell with this book. While I'm do some line-level edits on the read-through ("some," heh -- some on every page), I also think there's some fundamental stuff that's only coming through now, as I edit. Sometimes I'm adding whole scenes or whole pages, sometimes just a few paragraphs, sometimes a phrase. But each bit is adding up.

I'm more than halfway through the book now, both in chapters and in pages. I still think that the later chapters will take more time than the earlier ones to edit. And that makes sense, because I think most decent books have something of a butterfly effect: flapping the wings in Chapter 3 causes the drowning and transformation of an oathbreaker in Chapter 14. (If it's not butterflying from that one line, it's likely that I left something out initially, rather than adding something new in the draft.) (I make grandiose pronouncements like that, but basically edits go how they go, butterflies notwithstanding.)

I managed to finish Sewer, Gas, and Electric yesterday, and read all of Bagthorpes Liberated, and even start on Vitals (the title for which italics are most important, as I don't want to say to people "I'm reading Greg Bear's vitals" or "I'm really getting into Greg Bear's vitals!"). This was largely because I felt like utter poo. (Chronic femaleness. Not to worry.) But once I let myself at Dwarf's Blood Mead...well, frankly, I'm typing this bit Monday night, not Tuesday morning, because my attention is on it now, and because this way I won't be doing anything more to DBM. Because I've been at this editing for hours now, and it's time to stop for awhile.

It's not that I want to get them over with, is the thing. They aren't unpleasant. They're interesting in their own right. I keep expecting them to get tedious, and they don't. So I keep not wanting to work on short stories, which I would usually need for my sanity at this point, because the DBM edits are their very own kind of fascinating for me.

Maybe it's that my sanity has not been on particularly firm ground all year. When they cancelled Mark's flight to St. Louis from City Near Institution3, I had the panicked thought, "No! You don't get to keep him yet! Institution1 gets to make their play for him, too! And what about meeeee?" But they gave him another flight with a different flight number and the same departure and arrival times, so all is "well."

The thing is, I keep expecting it to get colder from here. My brain is frozen in September. Not even in September 2002. Just in a September. It's not going to get colder from here, unless we get our own nuclear-flavored Fimbulvinter. We're going to experience temperatures in the 90s and probably the 100s before it gets really cold from here. But still, my brain is waiting, holding on.

I think the Fimbulvinter comment probably means I should gather up Greg Bear's vitals in a messy, knotty loop and go to bed, to type the rest of this when I usually do.

Okay, morning now. Columbine and this lady Mo and this guy Shmuel have been talking about poetry, and I find myself disagreeing with Columbine on the difference between a review and a critique. I think the fundamental difference is how much you care about what the author was going for. When you critique a piece, you look at what the artist was trying to do, as best you can figure it out, and try to help him/her do it better, or at least show him/her where the piece didn't achieve its goals in your opinion. It's always in your opinion. Critiquing doesn't carry with it any pretense of omniscience or universal taste. Why would it? On the other hand, it's best if you can back your opinions up with details from the piece itself. Common sense there. This is a different kind of "I liked/hated it" -- it's "I think it achieved X well/poorly."

When you review, on the other hand, you don't really have to care what the author was going for. All you care about is what you wanted out of a piece of art or that particular piece of art. I think it's all right for critiques to have some element of review to them (if you think a piece is irredeemable in concept, it's not a kindness to tell an artist that you liked the idea of it), but if it's going to be all review, it's best to back off and say that it's all review.

Also, I don't really get why or whether Columbine thinks that poetry is more autobiographical or moment-centered than any other art. And I also don't see why people reading poetry he thinks is bad is any different from people watching movies he thinks are bad. But it's entirely possible that I've missed a crucial earlier point.

Lileks says, "Dogs and toddlers keep you sane at times like these. Peter Jennings has the opposite effect." I disagree with Lileks a fair bit, but yah, I could do with a dog or a toddler right now, and I can live without Peter Jennings (and the other TV news personnel) pretty much indefinitely. The newspaper annoys me, but not in the same way or to the same degree that television news anchors do. (Jon Stewart excepted, of course.)

And once again, I would love to be living in a fantasy novel, where I could be "delicate and spirited," but here in the real world, I am (as always) pale and cranky.

Hmm. Some of the characters in my fantasy novels are pale and cranky. (Others are tanned and cranky, deep brown and cranky, etc.) Did I do something wrong there? Or is it just that the even-tempered give me fewer excuses for dialog?

And the addictive writer-brain says, "Mmmm, diiiiiialog." And off I go.

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