Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I mentioned the other day that my amazing editor showed me a bunch of quirks I didn't realize I had. I thought I should share some. When I was getting my MFA, one of my mentors pointed out that I overused the word "though." I never would have caught that on my own, and have been much more judicious about it ever since. Now, thanks to my editor, I know to also look out for the words "so," "suddenly," "swept"--I think that's it for the S words!--"gleamed" (or maybe "glittered" or some other equally sparkly word), and "heart." She also alerted me to the fact that I construct a lot of sentences like this: "I write a few words, add some more." Also, "I tend to list words, ideas, images" in twos and threes like this. It is so wonderful to have someone hold up a mirror so I can see myself and my work in a new, clear way. It will be nice to be more conscious of the things that have become habitual.

One of my students wrote a very sweet story for me--he cast me as an elfin queen who saves the world from an evil Bush-y empire. I love the story. It helped me see myself more clearly, too. In the story, the elfin queen has a nervous habit of tucking her hair behind her right ear. I didn't realize I did that until I read the story! Now I notice myself doing it all the time. I've also been noticing the fact that I have a tendency to pinch my lips with my fingers when I'm thinking. I am pretty sure this is a new habit (maybe to replace my tendency to put my tongue over my top lip when I concentrate) but it could be something I've been doing for a while and just didn't notice until now. I'm not sure how it came to my attention--no one alerted me to it. I just caught myself with my mouth in my hand one day. Strange the things we do on a subconscious level. I try to be mindful and awake, but there is so much that escapes me. Matt once pointed out the fact that I tend to hold fruit pits in my hand for a long time after I've finished the plum or peach. A theater director once noticed that I had a habit of holding my left forearm up, like Cher (embarrassing!) I wonder what other weird quirks will be brought to my attention down the road...


Donna said...

Wow, does your editor do freelance editing :) because I know I do some of those same things!

Do you focus more on story and content or on the language when you write? I am trying to pay more attention to language as I edit (not as I write because that blocks me).

I recently listened to Girl with a Pearl Earring on audio book while reading along on paper at the same time specifically to note how Tracy Chevalier was so careful to use metaphors and descriptions that were appropriate to the time period in the novel. It was amazing how she did that, I thought. Nothing jarred you into the present.

gayle said...

Hi Donna! Sadly, my editor doesn't freelance (as far as I know!) Every writer should be lucky enough to have such a thoughtful, thorough editor--I hope you'll have that experience some day!

Usually in a first draft, I try to step back and not think too much, just let the words flow (every once in awhile, I slow down enough to be more aware of language, or am happily surprised by a turn of phrase that just pops out, but it's more in the later drafts that the language really comes to the forefront for me.)

I loved hearing your thoughts about Tracy Chevalier's work--I imagine she spent a lot of revision time making sure her language fit the time period/setting. Maybe she had an awesome editor, too! :)