Thursday, March 25, 2021

From Chabon to editing

I’m reading The Yiddish Policemen’s Union again this month, teaching the book, in preparation for the author, Michael Chabon, to visit. This is maybe the third time I’ve read the book, and I continue to be more in awe of the novel that won both the Edgar Award and the Hugo Award with each turning page.

My takeaways from the book are many. Among them is the absolute fearlessness with which Chabon writes. The prose is breathtaking, but risk-taking as well. Reading the book leaves me feeling like I’m listening to a jazz musician riffing. Character and prose trump plot in this work, and the Edgar committee rewarded that.

That’s the magic formula, though, isn’t it? Character and prose?

It’s certainly what I strive to focus on. I’m about 30,000 words in (a hundred or so pages) into the project at hand, the place where Elmore Leonard said he usually stopped and figured out where he needed to go. And that’s what I’m doing –– printing the manuscript out, tearing into it with my pencil, cutting lines, adding lines, jotting a rough outline in my notebook, all in an effort to push the story ahead.

My agent and I spoke this past week about my need to print and work on hardcopy, about my belief that the work suffers if I don’t. Not superstition. There is something about seeing the pages on paper that changes (and improves) how I edit and work through a draft.

I’d love to hear others on this topic: Do you edit on the screen or on the copy?

1 comment:

Sybil Johnson said...

I do my first drafts longhand. They turn out better that way. Something about forming the words with a pen helps my thought process. After it's typed in I will print chapters out and edit on paper. Only the final draft is edited on the computer.