Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Confounding Connotations in Cloudy Content

KD Sullivan shared an effectively summarizing post yesterday over at the Authors Helping Authors blog, in which she outlines the "Four Cs—ensuring your work is Correct, Consistent, Clear, and Compelling." My favorite part of this post is when she points out—in her second sentence—that while authors should address these four pillars of writing in their very conception, it is ultimately the editor's role to make sure that's being handled properly.

She also recommends authors create personal style sheets to maintain consistency, provides a neat list of questions authors should ask themselves to ensure the text is conveying its message to its fullest extent, and muses a metaphor for "Writing standards," which "exist for the same reason we have rules of the road: so everyone reads the signs and symbols the same way, and no one collides with a comma on the way to clear understanding."

Great advice for writers. She favors Chicago Manual of Style & Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as "the standard publishing references," when I believe what she means to say is that those are the standards in her sector of publishing, but I will concede to her that they're both great references to keep on hand for any writer. I find both sources to be comprehensive and agreeable across diverse markets.

Editors, by nature, address these Four Cs when reviewing texts. What I often find in writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, is that authors can tend to get stuck on phrases that might make the rounds in the brain before arriving in the text, picking up lots of personal connotations that don't transfer through the publication to the reader. These voids become invisible to the author (contrary to the searing void BolaƱo describes in 2666 as "only the certainty of a void, a void that very quickly escapes even the word that contains it") and still contain, through every rereading and attempted revision, a meaning inherent to the author that the author cannot discern. An editor offers not only a fresh set of eyes capable of discerning these structural holes but a trained set of eyes capable of fixing the problem or at the very least prescribing a solution rather than just pointing out the inevitable non sequitur. 

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