Sorry I haven't blogged much in the past week. I was traveling for work, and being in a different timezone plus being bombarded with workaday concerns kept me from doing much of anything at the end of the day except go back to my hotel room and pass out. Getting back into the swing of editing Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned took some effort. A few insights also bubbled up in the process.
One way I tried to make up for my lost time was by doing a double dose of editing on the weekend — 40 pages a day instead of the usual 20. If you space things out so that you do one pass in the morning and one pass in the afternoon, it doesn't feel like a marathon. But one of the advantages of doing only one 20-page pass a day is that it gives you the rest of the evening, and most of the next day, to reflect on the changes you made. Sometimes you find that a piece you left in is not worth retaining after all.
Now that I consider it, some of the most valuable edits and additions I came up with arose from this "downtime reflection" process. There are things you can only notice when you've got the document open and it's staring you in the face, and there are things that will only come to you when it's closed and you're musing about it while wiping down your desk or waiting at a red light.
Another thing that emerged was how to see, if only distantly and in part, one's own work through the eyes of your readers. My friend Steve, who'd supplied me with notes towards an edit of the book, described it as "an indie film — single camera, hand-held." It took a read-through on my own before I could see what he meant. I'd described the goings-on in the story from below looking up, from the bottom of the alley, as it were — not from the rooftops looking down. That was the view I wanted to take, and I was pleased to see someone had picked up on it.
One more thing that I noted was that it wasn't always possible, or desirable, to implement every piece of advice I got. Some of them would have been too much work (at some point you just want to stop polishing, you know?); some would have been against the grain of what I ultimately wanted to do. But when his suggestion and my own inclinations coincided, that was a must-do.
I still feel a little guilty that not everything Steve proposed was actionable. But I know I had my own reasons for making certain choices. E.g., when we learn about certain people and what they can do, it comes in part by way of them talking about how they first experienced it — what it meant to them, and not just what we see them doing with it. I wanted those things to come from their own mouths, in their own words.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind