The Mad Missourian, Ben Wheeler returns!
A tome of terror and nightmare beyond your reckoning! IT IS THE NECRONOMICON AESTHETICA . Bound in the twisted and flayed flesh of critics and penned with the blood-tear ink of underpaid and overworked artists, this book will be the end-all and be-all of entertaining fiction analysis. This is not to be an explicit guide to a paint by numbers towards something poor, generic and, Lord forgive me for saying this, derivative. This is a guide to promoting excellence of story telling, to look at, disagree with or consult like a road map where you already know the way, but you want to make sure.
Read ON brave delver of the darkest literary arts!
Chapter 3: Editing the Dread Grimoire!
One might imagine the trepidation that your loyal yet shifty-eyed hunchback, William Twist, might feel at the time when you and someone you trust corrects and rewrites the very leaves of his flesh. Every page of his dusky skin spread out for all the world to see, to critique, to improve. The very bats “Ooh” and “Ah” over his back spread out like the wings of a butterfly, expanding ever onward until every jot and tittle is revealed. William Twist adores these moments, for he lacks internal and external beauty in every moment but this. This is his time to shine like the black sun that illuminates the moon mirror! This is his time to be adored like Venus rising from the sea-foam of Uranus’ testicles. If he were not wrenched up and out and draped upon the gloomy statuary of the Forgotten Tomb, of which only the master and the bats know the secret. The editor knows every secret but this, for you take her in the dead of night, and whisk her away from love, family and honor until William Twists’ flesh is perfect. And he must be perfect, it’s all connected to the secrets.
No one can know this secret, but that they pay a horrible price of self. That they rip away the arrogance of the soul and pursue Platonic Forms of humility before the bright or dark God or gods you serve. Indeed, the horror of the secret is that anyone CAN know it, but they refuse it. They treat the hunchback of their own as their spoiled child and not a sculpture of words. A writer has more akin to the sculpture or the painter than the parent, yet the greater number of enlightened wizards of words think differently. The youngest fall into this trap the most, and so their souls are devoured and their works, all but the ‘best’ are not published and their hunchback starves to death or else finds new work and their muse falls away, back up or down to whence they came. Oh, dread muses! How many of you fell because they were raped and abused and not trimmed and exercised? How crippled is Calliope that the enlightened starve and the unenlightened gnash their teeth for few are bold enough to wrestle Virtue, Piety and Gravitas?
Indeed, few have been given muses enough to tear their words inch by bloody inch into the grimoires and memory-oubliettes, and fewer still may be successful and rarest of all is the one capable of taking the scraping-tool to William Twists’ back. Few can see their own life and blood critically. Shall your muse be scorned by some drivel thrown upon the skin flaps? Shall your muse be abused by your own desires and not the beauty of the story? Shall your muse perish for lack of love after you ignore her and spend her dowry on fads and meaningless noise? Calliope preserve us! God inspire us!
ITUMBO OF NIGHT shifts in his seat. The literary demi-god curses with his stone lips. The bats shift in their perches, fascinated by the agony of William Twist, but driven away by the cruelty to be inflicted on him. You cannot stop now! Your work cannot lose to anyone! It must be the best!
Indeed, how is a book worth reading if it is not the best? There are those who may read pathetic entries to genres and light and laughter simply because they hunger for those things, but it is not good for them. It does not create a higher mind within them. How can they when all you do is feed the masses under you such pathetic dreck? A man might eat a burger at a fast food restaurant, and it is the same with a work that lacks care, forethought and depth. A massed produced or pornographic work only feeds the stomach of men, but not their minds.
Editing your own work is one such way to enforce the very nature of your own work. By self-editing you can choose to add or subtract for your own excellence, or the excellence of those who you write for. Do you write for yourself, a lonely boy who was abused and incapable of handling friendships? Who clings to the ideals of a God because they and they alone provide stability, though he is unknowingly quite mad and hungers always for deeper knowledge? Do you write for a cadre of girls, who you loved as sisters or as daughters? Who desire things of light and laughter and care not for anything but to be well and gently entertained? Do you write for a man who seeks an escape from a world who hates and fears him? Do you write for a widow, who reads of broad chested and misunderstood were-wolves because they remind her of her past, when she was young and firm-handed and he hadn’t had his heart attack yet?
For them do you fight and torture your hunchback. For that image in your mind of a boy who was once too scared to rise above or girls laughing and seeking to enjoy the times or a man who needs something for his soul or a widow in mourning forever until doomsday you must achieve the impossible, worldly perfection. Anything but the full exercise of your abilities insults your muse, ITUMBO OF NIGHT and God.
And then you must come to terms with it not being perfect. We have not even scratched out the first run-on sentence yet. But all these things must pass through your mind as you seek that excellence which is the difference between being remembered and being forgotten. For, there is no point to true art unless it is to create something of haunting beauty. In a commercial world, only the best rises to the top, like cream from the milk of busty centaurs. In such a world we live in, but there shall be no excuse on Judgement day should one merely take what money is offered, but leave his gifts unfulfilled. It is a matter of the things beyond our physical world and a part of the deeper magics that govern the real rules. They say when mercy is called for or not, and when violence is demanded or best left to another.
As you plant the scraping-sickle to William Twist’s flesh. Ask yourself what that ideal reader who love to read. What would comfort him in his dark hours, grow him and give him strength to seek health and love. Ask yourself if this is something that can be treasured after you have perished, and if the source of your inspiration is glorified by it.
You scrape away the first sentence and reinscribe something better. Passive voice. It’s the first cursed sentence, a thesis for every else of the story. Like the first notes of an orchestra, it must be perfectly tuned and perfectly played. The mind begins to work it’s powers from even the first word, but most of the unenlightened will give you a few paragraphs, provided you do not insult them in the first words.
Yet, as you perform your grim work, you find your very mind changed by the switch in scenery. You inscribed the lines onto patient William within your winter castle and summer caverns. Now, you edit in a different place, with different mindsets and different feels. The mind’s function changes based on location, music and phase of the moon. The water, coffee or blood of your enemies can manipulate the very humors of your body and soul. Can you not feel the difference of the you before the morning caffeinated rituals and after?
Place a new, critical mind within you. Seek the objective best, not the subjective fetishes. Do you think your audience would be happy if you gave less than your best? Only you would know. Perhaps some critics here and there, but it would be years before anyone unenlightened would see the degradation within your work. But you would know, and it would affect all your work. Selling out means the soul and the muse, not some mere chicken scratches on clay tablets. It is only the lack of sufficient complexity and rule laying that prevents soulless computers for mastering the craft for themselves and cut out the fickle flesh.
This critical mind must treat each sentence as something not your own. As something not of your flesh, but something else, beyond you. That this is some sacred thing and task given to you to fulfill by someone you care for, but not enough to spare their feelings. This is the expression of the very love one has for the grimoire. Love is in the reproach, education and punishment as much as in the rearing and raising? Can you learn to do a thing without training? Even virtuoso’s must learn to pluck the strings, no matter how fast they master it.
Read each chapter heading to see if it is humorous, or to task, or to the spirit of the work. Did you make it a reference to some movie or music? Does the play on words work. Do you need that plucky relief character who only shows up to be annoying because your sense of humor is malformed? Do you need that sex scene? Do you need that fight scene? Is there enough violence? Or too little? Do you need to spice up the Elvish Kingdom with a riddle game? Or do you need to give flavor to the Dwarven Kingdom with a high-stakes gambling match?
Take out everything that changes the character without growth. Take out everything that doesn’t advance the plot. Did you add too many political references? Can a reader guess your sexual orientation and fetishes? Are you the main character but younger and more idealized? Is the villain just some dude who cut you off at the MARKET OF ALL SOULS that one time? Are you putting in too much of yourself and not enough of your muse? Is the main romance your ideal girl, or ideal boy? Did the climax provide catharsis or did it merely slow down, neither providing closure to the story or giving relief to your readers?
All these questions must be asked of your work in this stage, though you should have asked them from the very beginning. Now is the time to catch the things to which your brain is blind. You are in a new place, with new environs and you are ready to clean the flesh of the already written novel for something higher yet, better than what it was before.
This is one of those moments where you have to know yourself. Are you capable of any of this? Can you trust your editor to catch yet more things you don’t? Your job is to create something as close to the ideal as you can. Did you give your editor something too fuzzy to do anything but copy edit? Are you ensuring that you are writing something that is worthy of being written, that time can be spent on it profitably? This is the time to do it. This is the time to pursue that perfection of form for the book you have written.
The thousand pitfalls of writing you have passed, but this one. Are you so proud of your work that you can demand nothing less than the best from it? It cannot be repeated enough. You are in a new place so that none of the prejudices of the haunted vaults afflict you. You are mentally prepared for the exhaustion that should come with seeking beauty. You have the book before you and tool in hand to mark it down or away.
And then, your work done, do you take it to another, fresh eyes, who will hone it yet more, so that every man can enjoy it without falling to corruption or vanity? Will he read it and go blind for the very soul of the book is a crooked thing, unloved for no one loved it enough to improve it?
There is so much to watch out for, that we have not properly edited even one paragraph yet. Yet, with hope, the spirit of it has been communicated. Do your best, no matter how painful it is, to create something of the ideal. It is not enough to merely throw down whatever you think is best for any scene, but rather, what is best for the story. The artist is an instrument of divine or demonic creation. Those things that cripple the heart and make a man incapable of growing or truly enjoying something is demonic. Those things that grow the heart or make a man laugh or give him dreams is divine. Be divine, and, even if it hurts, edit your book like God Himself will judge it. Then, give it to an editor whose sacred duty is the polishing of the works given to them.
By the end, your work will come out looking like gold, but no gold is ever made pure without heat. So too, editing your own book.