Monday, July 5, 2010
The Mighty Red Pen
I have a tendency to do everything back-assward. Can you imagine how that encroaches on my writing? Take for instance the first draft: Everyone knows you basically write without thought to grammar, spelling, and *blink* editing. The general rule is to get the story out of your brain and in some semblance of order on the page in front of you. Everything else comes in the consecutive drafts later on. Sounds easy enough right?
Uhm, yeah, if you say so…
For starters, I’m a free form writer. I let strange variations of plot (whatever story won’t stop nitpicking away at me until I give it a voice) flow. No outline, no clue as to where the story goes from beginning to end. In some ways I’m like a reader who picks up a book by a debut author – until it’s written the story is just as fresh and new to me, as it is for them. I love that the ending catches me by surprise or hits me out of left field.
To make things even more interesting (remember cardinal rule breaker here)…I broke the fundamental rule of the first draft and let a Beta reader work over my pages with a bright red pen. Those red marks danced circles around my words and left a macabre sight. Lines shadowed in parenthesis scolding in big red letters – REDO, echoes of – this makes no sense or this is unbelievable. My manuscript cringes in its designated binder, begging the red pen for mercy.
I wouldn’t say I’m a diehard rebel. For instance, I kowtowed to the popular rule of no edits in the first draft (which is challenging). So now, the binder sits in full view taunting me. I did read all the corrections and do take those red dashes across my prose serious. Those marks let me know in some nefarious way if I’m heading in the right direction or veered so far off the mark I’m no longer working on the same storyline.
No worries, I get my dues in the end. I get the satisfaction of knowing my Beta reader still doesn’t have a clue how this book ends. To me, that’s good writing. I managed to lay the groundwork, feeding just enough to let the foreshadowing work its magic. He senses the underlying currents with my characters and wants more.
Writers are excellent weavers. We pull the strands of words, chapters, characters and plot together, into an extensive web of enchantment and mystery. Even so, there are days those strands don’t pull tight enough or yank the web eschewed – as evidenced by the mighty red pen. So I pull the web apart and rework the strands until I can present something worthy of the spider in Charlotte’s Web.
At the end of the day I need to ask myself, is the way I write working for me? You tell me. The latest red pen declaration was, “Oh F*** me!” That would be in response to a revealing piece of the story. In case you’re wondering…yes, he did give me a flattering appraisal. His surprise turned out to be all the encouragement I needed.
The mighty red pen…where would I be without your constant challenging, encouraging scarlet scribbles across my words?
*This has been a public service message to remind me why I don’t outright kill the wielder of the RED pen (winks).