Saturday, September 20, 2008

As If We Didn't Already Know Reading was Important . . .

Last time I talked about The Artful Edit by Susan Bell, I mentioned that she divides editing into two main components, the macro- and micro-edit, and that many writers prefer and are stronger in one than the other. I'm a micro-editor, as is Bell, as was F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author she profiles in much of her book. Hey, not bad company to be in. :)

What might be a reason to prefer the micro-edit? Maybe the way Bell chooses to begin that section of her book sheds some light. She quotes novelist John O'Hara as saying, "I read slowly, because when I read . . . I am intently busy."

Can I just stop here and sigh and take that in?

Micro-editing, Bell agrees, thrives on the ability to read slowly. Then she adds something that can't help but make me nod: " . . . reading as slowly as O'Hara did in 1959 was easier then than now . . . . To read slowly today is not just unfashionable but nearly impossible. We are in a permanent hurry . . ."

What do you think? Do you agree? How does your busyness affect your reading and vice-versa?

Under headings such as Language, Repetition, Clarity, Transitions and more, Bell gives specific advice such as cut cliches, watch present participles, recognize and vary pet words and phrases. She talks about how every single a, and, the has an effect, using this example:

Jane walked the dog.
Jane and the dog went for a walk.

Such simple sentences with simple words, yet they give different impressions. In the first sentence, Jane is in charge. In the second, Jane and the dog are equals.

I love this sort of thing. Layers of meaning at the micro level just blow me away. :)

5 comments:

Brenda said...

I use to be a curl up in my big chair and take in everything in the book I was reading...

Then I began reading at a table, standing up or whereever I could fit it in and I'm sure I did more skimming then reading at times...

Now when I get a new book, I try to make sure I'm comfortable so that I can actually read it...but it is still hard to take the time to do that...

That is what I love about the library...I always seem to slow down when I'm there...and I can read without interruption!

PJ Hoover said...

I love the layers, too! Maybe that's why I end up doing 100 revisions, focusing on different things each time!

Marcia said...

Brenda -- sadly, I agree that it's harder to take the time to read than it used to be, not that that will ever stop me from reading. But I skim more, and I give up on a book easier. Sometimes I don't slow down at the library either, if there are certain things I want to accomplish in a limited time there.

PJ -- I think that way of revising is probably how we deepen those layers. At any rate, they're a big part of the beauty of a story.

annasander said...

This book sounds interesting; I must check it out! The last example is indeed brilliant - how simple but powerful.

Marcia said...

Anna -- It's an interesting book to work your way through. I really like that at the end of both the micro- and macro-edit sections she summarizes everything on a double-page spread. I've made photocopies of both spreads to keep.