If you all haven’t met Abbeville, then it’s time to get acquainted. Not only do they publish some gorgeous books, they also regularly take on Big Orange with the style and vigor of a banty rooster. Lawsy, I love someone with a little grit in their craw.
A little while ago, someone suggested to them an exercise in editing the classics. The first example was the Lord’s Prayer.
I didn’t participate because that prayer brings back too many memories of me learning it. We lived with my aunt and grandfather on the farm. The house had no electricity, heat aside from the wood-burning cook stove and a coal stove in the living room and no running water.
Each night, Aunt Rose got down on her knees with me beside the bed and we said our prayers. Mother had printed out the Lord’s Prayer on a paper for me and sent it to me and I read it aloud each night until I memorized it. Now, this farm being in Montana and it being the middle of winter in an old farmhouse with no heat or insulation, I’m sure Aunt Rose would have preferred we not spend quite so much time on our knees in the cold. However, she encouraged me to read the prayer with all my stops and halting as I struggled through the words.
I learned that lovely prayer and kept Mother’s letter for years in the heart-shaped Valentine box that also held all the paper flowers I drew and colored for Grandma while she was dying.
The point of the exercise was not to disrespect it, but rather to show how even short works can be trimmed a bit more without altering the tone and meaning of the piece.
This got me to thinking, which I like to do.
At what point do we stop searching for the tightest writing and compromise for our sense of the poetic?
It’s a different answer for each writer, I suppose.
John Simpson once posted a piece from an older work in which he described death personified. I thought it was one of the most beautiful and gut-wrenching passages I had ever read. Death watched and swooped down on an unsuspecting person just going about their business.
He, on the other hand, apologized for his transgressions. We should all be so lucky to have our works riddled with those haunting transgressions.
I’ve cut a tremendous amount of description and the songs from Paladin as well as entire scenes, chapters and arcs. Can it be cut more? I imagine it can and will be. Even so, as I near the final revision, I have decided the poetry of the words also have a place.
It’s a very difficult balancing act and one only the author knows how to walk.