Today I’m hosting Michael Boylan on my blog, author of literary fiction “Naked Reverse”. He’ll talk about his editing process. I’ll leave the word to him now.
On editing. The British humorist P.G. Wodehouse once wryly commented that any true writer knows that once he has written a draft that the work was golden and not to be disturbed ever again! Well, there certainly is a feeling of relief when one finishes a draft of some manuscript. It is often a long process and has caused some anxiety in the activity. Why shouldn’t it be viewed as perfect?
This is something we all feel but then again we all know that every artifact needs to be reviewed and thought about over and over again. In my novel The Extinction of Desire (originally completed in 1990, but not published until 2007) I went through 37 drafts over 17 years before I felt it was ready for publication. That may be an extreme case.
But time needs to pass by so that our eyes see the manuscript anew. Sometimes (as in the case of The Extinction of Desire) I will throw out a series of re-writes (e.g., drafts #11-16) and go back to draft #10. For Naked Reverse I finished the first draft in 1982. That’s a span of 34 years! I only went through 14 drafts, but I took considerable time between each draft. I wanted to get my message right: one sometimes has to leave his comfort zone of life when s/he is becoming stale. This is necessary even if the risks are high. In Naked Reverse the stakes are life and death.
Then there are the key scenes that convey a large part of the story’s message. In Naked Reverse there is one central scene towards the three-quarter mark that my readers have told me stays with them. I went over this particular scene at least 50 times reading aloud to myself and at poetry readings that I give every 10 months or so. Getting audience reaction is great for insight on how you are communicating. We do not live in a bell jar.
I believe in editing. First, on the level of one’s composition, and second, working with copy-editors and proof readers. One must never fall back into the P.G. Wodehouse attitude (even though he was making fun). One must not take the other extreme that it can never be perfect so that one throws the whole thing away. Instead, think of a carpenter working on a table. S/he has to get all the joints correct. The wood must be properly prepared (planed, sanded, and stained). One should fiddle with the final product awhile, but then give it up. Just like having a child, there comes a time when you have to let it go out into the world.
I’ve just let Naked Reverse out into the world. If you have any questions or comments, visit my website: michaelboylan.net and post a comment. I’ll reply back to you.
About the Book
Author: Michael Boylan
Genre: Literary Fiction / Adventure
There’s a secret back door to the Ivory Tower. Follow college professor Andrew Viam through that secret passageway as he goes on an Odyssey into the real world full of love and violence. Will he survive? This is an open question. He falls for a woman, but then she’s running away from a boyfriend who’s into Organized Crime and wants her back. From the tough city streets of Chicago to the wild woods of Wisconsin, Andrew will have to call on new resources if he wants to make it alive to next term. It’s a summer break he’d never experienced—and hopefully never will again.
Michael Boylan is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Marymount University. He is the author of 29 books and over 130 articles in literature and philosophy. He has delivered invited lectures in 14 countries on 5 continents. He is a lifetime fellow of the British Arts Trust in Reigate, Surrey.
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