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The Artful Edit 5· Theme (Leitmotiv): When you edit, you may want to search out thematic symbols and gingerly sew them into a coherent, barely visible pattern. Laid in with a light touch, leitmotiv can act like a refrain that keeps bringing the reader back to your central theme. The edit is a good place to finesse a leitmotiv, to place it more purposefully and with apt proportions. You may choose a leitmotiv early on, or discover one embedded in your draft when you edit. 6. Continuity of Tone: When you read your draft, ask yourself: Are the tone, atmosphere, and characters coherent? Don't let a British accent slur into Brooklynese, for example. Don't let a poetic, ominous atmosphere suddenly and for no good reason turn pedestrian and bright. If your work calls for discontinu-ity, let the reader know it isn't an accident.
SusanBeO PRACTICE: THE NOTEBOOK (NARRATIVE ELEMENTS) Ke�p notebooks on the narrative elements that challenge you. To help with understanding structure, for example, force yourself to find the structure, at least somewhat, of the next book you read, and mark down your findings. The same process may apply to character motive, leitmo'tiv, and intention. As you edit, check your notebooks for ideas. Use them to ignite your imagination and clarify the mechanisms in your own work.
The Artful Edit A Great Luxury Tracy Kidder There're so many steps involved in editing and some of them come simultaneously, but ifyou break them down, first you've got to know that there is something wrong. Forget why or what or anything. just knowing, "this isn't working" is really important. And then the ques-tion is "what's wrong" and "why is it wrong?" And that's not always easy to say, and anyway it doesn't make sense to spend too much time trying to figure that out. Ifit's wrong it's wrong and what you really want to try to figure out is how to make it right. My usual approach is to rewrite it. And I don't mind that, I like doing that. I remember trying to tell students, ''Look, rewriting is a wonder-ful thing. It's the only department in life where you get to say some-thing and then take it back and figure out h(Jw to say it better before anyone has to see it. "And what a great luxury it is. I love rewriting. The kind of rewriting that I generally do is I start over again. Some stuff from the previous draft survives, but I try to find a fresh way to go at something that isn't working. One of my gripes about the computer is that it encourages a kind of editing that I don't think is very useful. That is, you can move stuff around endlessly. I did a little editing for the late lamented New Eng-land Monthly. Some writer was writing a piece that we really needed and all he kept doing was taking the same bankrupt paragraphs and moving them around I went to Andover [prep school} and it was a very rigorous educa-tion. You didn't take a test that didn't have essay questions on it. I 9I
Susan Bell remember it was really hard trying to learn how to write. And there was an awful lot of rewriting. I learned to rewrite there. I'm grateful for that. I had an English teacher there for a couple of years who made