We write about work we like, language we love, and about communications for
charities and non-profits.
Writing a charity’s annual report or a release for your website is not the same as crafting a Booker-worthy novel or a Broadway play. But both require you to take on two tasks: to get something written down, and then to come back to it and make it better, usually by taking a lot of it away.
Saturday’s Guardian provided an insight into this duality of creation and destruction by showingnewly-annotated first editions of popular writers’ work – from Harry Potter to Bridget Jones. Some authors chose to explain particular artistic decisions, while others exhibited continuing anxiety about supposed imperfections.
Most interesting was Philip Pullman’s scribbles on a first edition of Northern Lights, opener of theHis Dark Materials trilogy. Pullman takes the opportunity to bring an editor’s eye to four early pages, the scene where the narrative is kickstarted by Lyra sneaking into the Retiring Room.
More than a quarter of the prose on these pages is struck through by Pullman, with only a couple of short additions to compensate. It appears that, now reviewing his text from some years’ distance, he sees extraneous material that, for him, gets in the way of the core story. What do Pullman’s strike-throughs teach us?