Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Some editing tips

Courtesy of CE Chaffin, via Shann Palmer:

In this enterprise some things occurred to me that may prove helpful to others in the editing process. Here goes:

1) Always suspect the ending. You may have to strike one or more lines. Watch out for dilution, for over-explication.

2) Suspect the first stanza. Often the first stanza is like starter fluid; it’s only there to get the car started, it’s not really part of the car.

3) Transitions from the first to second and from the penultimate to the ultimate stanzas are frequently muddled. Make sure the substance is clear.

4) The title can almost always be improved. Taking a phrase from the emotional climax of the poem is reliable and works well. To make the title a comment on the poem is also good. To make the poem dependent on the title for its full meaning is very good if you sin neither in obviousness or obscurity.

5) Unless you have a very good editor, time is your most valuable ally. Give a bad poem five months in the drawer and when you take it out again you’ll most likely put it out of its misery. With truly inspired poems it’s tempting to go off trying to get the perfect draft the first night, but that way lies madness and robs a poem of its juice, which is hard to recoup. Remember: with each revision you lose a little more juice. Beware an over-reified poem; it is the mark of too many revisions. Such a poem reads unnaturally, perhaps even stilted; it has been sucked dry. (This made me think of Auden for some reason.) ;-)

In other words, beware, beware, beware! But beware of being to wary; that's wearying.

1 comment:

vipul chaudhary said...

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