Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Draft Eye

There is something that I like to call “Draft Eye” which I feel fits more aspects of life than just writing. However, when I talk about it, I’m going to refer to it mostly towards in literary terms—and as I say that I feel myself lying through my teeth—because that is where the idea can be utilized in a useful manner.
Having Draft Eye is a negative term indicating that the critic understands that this is a first draft and assuming there are mistakes accordingly.

This in itself is not a bad thing. That’s what one wants during an edit is for someone to be sitting there, finding the errors that they’ve made and preempting future problems for them. Being more critical than a normal reader covers more ground. To look at a draft and assume it is perfect before reading is idiotic and unhelpful. By the nature of what a draft is it means it will be riddled with typos and grammar errors and silly lines that make one’s gut clench when she sees how ridiculous it is. At least in the earlier stages.

Everything in moderation, however, and starting out with the assumption that the author is a moron is no way to go about it either.

Draft Eye relates explicitly to the relationship between a draft and a published work. Simply said, when one is reading a draft and something doesn’t make sense, then he assumes that the draft doesn’t make sense. When one is reading something published and it doesn’t make sense, he assumes that the reader made the mistake.

Pretty practical, actually. It would be a little egotistical to do it the other way around, and furthermore, doesn’t one want to rid himself of all the mistakes first, even the ones a reader would accept as her own?
Obviously. But again, moderation. There is a little problem in doing this, one that affects the editor’s ability to edit. If the editor reads that a character is sitting down when he believed that she was standing, he often just assumes without going back that the writer forgot to describe him sitting, and writes in, “She was standing a moment ago.” If, however, the writer did put that the character had pulled up a chair, this author assumes one of many things, depending on their rationality: the editor skipped that sentence and no change is necessary, the editor is an idiot and no change is necessary, or the work is utterly confusing and there's nothing to be done because he already said that the character had plopped on a stood. The writer then throws the whole thing out and then cries in the corner.

In assuming that the draft is not well thought out, the editor does not take as much consideration as to why something is a problem, which is just as important as what is a problem. Maybe the author did say that the character had sat, but the editor was confused on whom. Or maybe he did just skip it and the author needs to do nothing. Maybe nothing will ever come at it.

A better example would be of an actual example. I once read a short story written in a class in which the first sentence was, “Mary was deaf. Deaf, not mute.” The story went on to say how Mary was then proposed to and the first line she had was at the end of the tale in which she says, “Yes!”

The “Deaf, not mute” line clearly was a sentence imposed when someone using Draft Eye commented when she spoke for the first time, probably saying, “I thought she couldn’t speak!” This was the writer’s solution, which was not a good one, really, because it takes the reader right out of the description in a slightly amusing manner. If the story had been published with the deaf character talking in the end, the reader would not have thought that the author merely forgot that her character couldn’t talk, more likely either that he’d made a mistake in reading that she couldn’t speak or that the author was attempting for something that wasn’t clear. The comment was still needed, for the end of the story was diminished when the reader sat there wondering, “Wait, could she speak? Did I miss something?”

The fix of the adding the one simple, and a little sarcastic, line merely indicated the writer’s frustration at her editor. This is, of course, an example of the disrespect both writer and editor have towards each other, and the writer is at fault just as much. However, if one wishes to be a helpful, he has to take Draft Eye into a little consideration as he's working. The writer should also recognize that this is a possibility when reading comments. It helps on understanding how to take them.