Friday, March 23, 2012

Artifacts and Revision Ghosts

reprinted from Kindleboards:

by Edward C. Patterson

Recent threads continue the KB tradition of discussions about editing (poor or otherwise) and frustrations from readers and authors concerning books let out to pasture as thoroughly edited yielding errors nonetheless. At the risk of preaching to the choir, I'd like to talk about a post-editing phenomena called "Revision Artifacts" and "Editing Ghosts." One is bad, but the other is good — and sometimes really, really good.

While typos and other misdemeanors can be the result of poor editing (read: author apathy), artifacts are the result of the opposite — author devotion and diligence toward perfection. Any software programmer will tell you that when you open a program for changes, you need to test it, because to monkey around with it usually breaks something else. This is what happens with revision and the application of duly found edits. The author applies the edit or pursues revisions and thus leaves an artifact.

There are two classes of artifacts — passive and active. Active artifacts occur at the site of the change. They are usually an extra word or letter OR a missing word or phrase. Sometimes the original(or a portion of the original) is left alongside the change making for a bumpy read. A frequent offender is possessive conversion IE. the queen of the May converted to May's queen of. Whoops. It is quite easy to delete too much when highlighting in word processing or not enough. Joining two sentences and leaving the period or the opposite leaving the comma followed by a capital, is frustrating to an author who is confident their work was published unblemished.
Passive artifacts are caused to other parts of the sentence or paragraph apart from the change scene. Change a verb and you need to change pronouns perhaps. Change a tense, other areas of the paragraph may need adjustment. Omit an adverb and perhaps the remaining noun takes an "an" instead of an "a." In all instances, the artifact remains after the majority of revision and editing is accomplished.

The remedy is simple (obviously). Last revisions and editing applications should be approached with care, Double check each. Spell-check the entire chapter after a revision (Spell checkers may be notorious as the sole tool of dependence, but in this case, it's invaluable). Finally, use a computer read back program such as Natural Speech or Kindle's text-to-speech to read back your entire manuscript as the final go through. You'll be surprised at how good these are finding both active and passive artifacts.

Revision Ghosts

Unlike artifacts, revision ghosts are good things. The more you author and the less you write, ghosts help support subtext and tone. When you're in the ZONE and spilling story down furiously without any regard for redundancy or refinement, some of the best stuff that you'll be cutting emerges on the page. During this act, all your words hug and embrace each other forming a bond. During revision you refine your work, adding and cutting and trimming and changing. However, despite your best efforts, the original bond between the original and the final remains. Cut sentences and paragraphs form an invisible hole, which the surviving sections still resonate. This resonance is called ghosting and is important to the mix, lingering unspoken but felt in the fabric of the work. I believe that one of the more important reasons for revising your manuscript is to leave these accidental ingredients. Much like artifacts, which detract, revision ghosts enhance a work. Writers (I say writers, because no author would consider a work finished without at least one revision) who rush to publication without revisions miss out on this perk.

Well, I've babbled enough. The reason for it is to demonstrate that sometimes a critic, reviewer or blogger will take offense with an error and press it home, and although nothing exonerates the author's responsibility for any blight upon art's face, caring authors leave artifacts because they have tried hard, but just short of the goal — but in compensation they have enhanced the reading experience with revision ghosts that linger with a reader who just can't put their finger on it.

Edward C. Patterson
Readers Rock

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