Monday, May 09, 2011

What the F$*# does "finesse" mean?

I got my edits email from my editor the other day and then, a few days later, my edit phone call. The notes are straight forward and a few days ago, I thought the work was straight forward too. But know that I'm knee deep in the manuscript, covered in story guts and severed plot lines, I have no effing clue what "finesse" means. Because I'm supposed to finesse a lot of things right now, and I can't see for the carnage of editing.

Right now, where I'm at in my head and in this book, the only editorial that makes sense, is cut it. If it doesn't work, just cut the whole thing right out. Because I probably didn't need it anyway. Maureen told me this over beer the other day and I frowned at her and griped and said "I don't want to talk about this anymore." Clearly, I am a fully grown adult writer.

But she was right, so I cut out a bunch of stuff that I was supposed to finesse, but finessing it just made it more confusing. Because, probably, I don't know how to finesse. I think I'm more of a blunt instrument writer - finesse is for better writers. Better writers who know more words? I know about 50.

My other very sophisticated editorial tool at this moment is something I like to call "do the opposite." If it's not working, don't bother finessing, just do the opposite. I'm amazed at how often this works. If it doesn't work with her in the room, take her out of the room. It's like I don't just get it a little wrong the first time, I get it all the way wrong.

I'm about to open my laptop and step back into the story gore, and my manuscript is shaking with terror, beacuse it probably wants to be finessed. It wants to be nuanced and massaged and I keep showing up with a hammer and a hacksaw, because I have no idea what those other words mean in relationship to my book. So....anyone know?

8 comments:

Eileen said...

I think finessing might be like pornography. We know it when we see it. Doesn't mean we can do it, though. :-)

I'm a pretty straightforward writer as well. I don't finesse and I suck at obfuscating.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Bull in a china shop doesn't even begin to describe me editing this book right now...

obfuscating is not one of my 50 words.

Sinead M said...

I really like saying obfuscating now that Eileen has introduced it into my world. It's fun... especially the wierd looks I'm getting when I use it at work.

Finessing isn't something I would know how to start doing. I'd have to ask Maureen for a tutorial.

Eileen said...

Perhaps our unwillingness to finesse is just an example of our contumacy.

I've been reading Jane Eyre and my vocabulary of unnecessarily long words is expanding exponentially. Bronte also used the word "freak" a lot. Don't know what's up with that.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I know obfuscate... I don't know contumacy... I'm fairly certain Eileen made that up.

Molly - I know exactly what "finesse" means in editor speak. It means... just make it better. It's good... now make it better.

But it sounds silly to say that... so they say "tweak" it. "Finesse" it. "Polish" it.

All means the same thing. And since I know you... you will absolutely make it better.

Eileen said...

Oh, Steph, I cachinnate at your naivete!

Eileen said...

Seriously, I do think finessing is a little like obfuscating. They just want it to be less obvious.

Maureen McGowan said...

You write with tons of finesse for the stuff that matters. Tthe stuff your readers love you for drips with finesse. :). That business you're talking about was a plot detail that was overly convoluted and if you didn't need it, Hacksaw was the right tool. You always get to the right tool eventually (and clearly should listen to me more.)

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