Monday, 5 August 2013

Technical redrafting and dermal Flaws

At last we have rain. One result is a dead, decapitated frog on the path to the field. I reckon a cat or a fox must have got it, which seems a shame since they didn't eat it once they'd killed it. Apart from walking the dog in the rain - he's just met his first red, open umbrella advancing across the field with a black Labrador's owner - and running to the beck and call of dh's requests while he re-tiles the utility room floor, I plan to continue checking the ms to remove redundant uses of "that" and "was."

There are lots of other things I have to do to it. Technical redrafting, for one. I got this lovely phrase from The Road to Somewhere, and the following is a quote from Thomas McCormack: the dermal flaw. By that he means blemishes on the face of the novel, and lists a good many to look out for: failures of diction, grace, freshness, materiality, credibility, pace, vividness, understandability, interest...cliches, repetitions, stale modifiers, abstract generalities where concrete specificities are needed; phrases, images and metaphors that simply misfire.

There's enough there to keep me working for the next month or so.

The dermal flaws are not considered part of technical redrafting, by the way. Layout, punctuation and grammar are, and need an eagle eye to spot them all. Then there's creative redrafting. McCormack lists symptoms that suggest the story requires treatment:  a disappointed sense of its not meeting us at the station, of its having missed some unnameable opportunity. ...lacking a life-supporting temperature, of inertness, of inconsequence, of meaninglessness to events, of something, somewhere in the book gone profoundly wrong. 

Internal flaws such as these are difficult to detect and equally difficult to make good. How right he is. There are so many sub-headings under this topic that I fear I shall be still redrafting this time next year.


Jen Black said...

Margaret wrote: "I don't know when I've encountered such a collection of gobbledygook. jargon, and doublespeak. "Materiality?" "Failures of diction?" Good Lord! If you fall for this sort of turgid posturing, you're in danger of losing your voice, your style, and what makes the Matho stories good. But then you know I'd feel this way...!"

Jen Black said...

That comment was from Margaret Chrisawn, by the way.