Sunday, January 15, 2012

You Put the Comma In, You Take the Comma Out...

Bonus points to anyone who read the title of this post to the tune of “The Hokey Pokey.”

Anyway, the inspiration for this post comes from the brilliant Oscar Wilde, whose The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of my all-time favorite books:

“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.”

I guess Oscar just must’ve been having one of those days.  Don’t we all?

I tend to have these moments more along the way than in final editing—I get all OCD with the minor wording, and my backspace button probably hates me for being a slave driver.  (When I go old-school and write by hand, I usually end up with at least 25% of the lines marked out.  If my laptop’s backspace button probably hates me, trees definitely do.)

The OCD approach saves me a little time in the long run—less editing to do later on—but also kills some of my effort when revisions set in and scenes get slashed.  I’d consider trying to reign in the internal editor for a bit, since that seems like the wise thing to do, but I’ve never been wise and I’d rather just stick with my writing flow, idiosyncrasies and all.  Which begs the question.

Have you ever had one of those days, full of scribbled lines or extra bonding time with your backspace button?  Which describes you—“obsessive-compulsive” corrector or “I locked my internal editor in the closet (gagged and bound)” kidnapper?


Anonymous said...

I have those days. And I do take the comma in, take the comma out....

Have a great week.

Caitlin Hensley said...

I'm definitely an obsessive-compulsive editor. That's why I prefer writing on the computer as opposed to with a notebook and pen. Like you said, I end up crossing out most of what I write by hand. At least with a computer, I can delete the bad stuff and add in the better. :D

Morgan said...

Ohhh... interesting post. With my last novel, I was an edit-as-I-go writer. You're right, it does save time later on... if you keep it. If you don't, gaaaah... so much time wasted. This time around, I vomited the whole story out--I had to force myself to not make everything perfect the first time around. It's been hard, but better, I think in the long run. For me. So fascinating to see how different we all work ;)

Imogen said...

Normally I bash right through a draft, and think about editing it afterwards. But this time I'm editing as I go, simply because I'm not too sure on the workings of this genre and I want to make things easier later on.

The Story Queen said...

Bonus points to meeeee!

I have so many of those days. I try really, really hard not to do it but, alas. Sometimes I can't help it.


Jenna Blake Morris said...

Medeia -- Man, me too. It's ridiculous. You have a great week, too!

Caitlin -- Same here! I've gotten those removable stickers you put on laptop keys a few times, and I always wear all the coloring off my backspace key pretty quickly. It's a bummer.

Morgan -- No kidding. I'm going to have to try forcing myself to just pound out a rough draft and resist the urge to edit as I go along -- I think it'd be a good experience, even if I don't stick with it for long.

Imogen -- That's a good point, about making it easier later on. Good luck with your new genre!

Sonia -- Ha, go you! :D And same here. Sometimes it's just not worth fighting myself over.

Christina Farley said...

Oh yes. That's me all of the time. Ha ha!

Marisa Hopkins said...

haha, yes! I have been doing that a lot lately - trying to shut of the internal editor, but I can't help playing the comma hokey pokey :)

I love that book, too! And that excerpt cracked me up!

Lynda R Young said...

yep, for sure. I try not to edit as I go now because all too often I'll pretty up a scene and end up deleting it later.

Jenna Blake Morris said...

Christina -- I know what you mean!

Marisa -- Haha! "Comma hokey pokey" -- I love how you put that. And isn't Wilde the wittiest?

Lynda -- "Pretty up a scene" -- I liked the wording of that, too.

Liz. R said...

I have those days. My backspace button periodically stops working, probably just to punish me :P. I also have days where I'm the complete opposite, though. Usually when I'm rushed and I type whatever comes into my head until I've written enough words. Then I close my laptop and try to forget all about it :P.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

This is totally me with the comma situation. Some days I swear they move around on their own accord. :P

Midnight Writer said...

The other day I found this quote and thought of you!
I hope you like it:

"I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again." -Oscar Wilde

Please check out my blog:
Thanks :)