12 August 2011

the antieditors guide to editing

I've decided that instead of editing some perfectly okay poetry I have and send it out for possible publication, it's time to start hunting down my next great idea. Because it's easier to say, "Yeah, I'm just looking for that next great idea" than to have to admit, "Yeah, I never quite got that last great idea off the ground." Makes sense, says the inner voice, your perhaps it belongs to you, murmured so soft you forget and only I hear it. And so I deem you Safe Ear for the Anti-Editor's Guide to Editing.



1. Stop. Right where you are. You're thinking that word doesn't quite work, or maybe that line is not as strong as it should be. No-- you're wrong. You're thinking too hard. Just leave it for tomorrow. It will sound better then. Better yet, leave it for 5:30 tomorrow morning. It will be genius. Better still, simply gaze at it until you gaze at the clock at 1:30 in the morning, and then look at it one more time-- you will call yourself Shakespeare.

2. So you've decided that word isn't right after all. I give you: The Thesaurus. Tangible isn't working for you?  Try corporeal. Demonstrable has one more syllable-- it makes you sound smarter. Don't dumb it down, whatever you do. The bigger the word, the better. Just toss it in there.

3. Now all of a sudden you can't remember what you were driving at in the first few lines of the poem. You could take them out. Rework them. Look at the point where things start making sense and work back from there to remember, and then revise. Or ... you could leave them. Let the reader figure it out. And when he or she can't, look at him or her and say, with loathing, "Seriously? It's obvious."

4. When no one understands your poem, blame them. It's not your fault they're all idiots.

5. When no one wants to publish your poem, blame them. It's not your fault they're all idiots.

6. You once saw an epigram on a poem. That seemed pretty cool. If you can't remember quite what your poem was about or aiming for, throw in an epigram. It fixes everything. Make sure the epigram has nothing to do with the poem itself. Call it a metaphor.

7. When you get to the point you're so frustrated you don't know what to do, take a pair of scissors, cut each line, and toss the lines in the air. Pick them up one by one. This is the new order of your poem. Call it "experimental verse."

8. Skip step eight. It's stupid.

9. Whatever you do, don't show your poem to anyone until it's finished. They'll just mess it up. Giving their silly little suggestions. Pointing out silly little errors. Who needs them? Let them buy it when it's published in the North American Review.

10. You know what, just forget all that. Tear that poem up. It's terrible. It's rubbish. It's fodder for your fireplace. Kindle it and forget it ever happened. Move on to the next good thing.

Makes sense, you say so only I can hear.

... Or maybe it's just me after all.

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