Line-editing contretemps

I work on my book in sections. Right now I’m slogging through the third part — filling in gaps, fleshing out scenes, tinkering with dialogue. I move ahead five, maybe ten, pages a week.

Every few days I print out the most recent version and promise myself I won’t change another word until I’ve pushed to the end of, for instance, part 3.

Then morning comes. I take the manuscript with me on the train — just to read over it, you understand — and by the time I reach my stop, the pages are covered with more arrows and annotations than a circuitry diagram.

This morning I left my apartment without a pen. I boarded the train, clutched a pole, and fumbled around in my purse, pulling out loose receipts and gum wrappers, unearthing an ancient box of tic-tacs, mistaking various cylindrical objects — one of unknown provenance — for writing instruments. Finally I pulled out an ancient eyeliner pencil. A possibility! Alas, it was so dull, it wouldn’t even leave a mark on the paper. I began to recover vague memories of line-editing with it in a similar situation months before.

I pitched the thing back into the bag and realized I didn’t have a book or magazine with me. Meaning that I was stuck, sans correcting implement, reading my manuscript all the way downtown. Way to start the day feeling like Mr. Earbrass.


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