The Critical Beauty of Editing


Claude Debussy said “Music is found in the space between the notes.”  I went looking for this quote and had heard it used to describe Miles Davis’ music, but found out it actually was original to Debussy.  If you have ever listened to ‘Claire DeLune’ you know why he said it. The tiny pause between the first two notes, the holding of the rising second and then the pause to the third note sets in motion the evocative, breathtaking beauty of the piece.  In addition to finding out the origin of the quotation I found another quote on Debussy from a new writer’s blog that was so well phrased that with a couple of minor edits I am sharing it:

From the entry Clarity on Personally Inspired blog:  “Some of the best musicians, I’m told, play fewer notes than you actually hear. They play in such a way–and leave enough space–that your mind fills in more.  Artists know that negative space carries weight. It is not simply an absence of content. The ‘white space,’ as it’s sometimes referred to by graphic designers, IS content. And it’s not just the forgotten stepchild of a composition… it is a first-class citizen. A thing that deserves as much (if not more) focus as the apparent subject of the work.

Comedians say that “timing is everything.” But by “timing”, they almost always mean “the pause.” The PAUSE is not merely a void between the Things That Matter. Without the pause the humor could not exist. The pause heightens your anticipation….and enjoyment.(my addition)

Newbie writers (like me) are taught that it’s the words you cut out that matter most. We’re told to edit until nothing else can be removed. That’s great advice, and when I have time to edit (rare for a spare-time blog post, but required with my book), I start hacking off all those extra words. (Like, “off all those”). But removing words isn’t enough. We must insert space.         Space for the reader to become engaged.               Space for the reader to reflect, process         and co-create the meaning.”

Well said.  So as I finish writing my book I am anticipating my time of creating more space for my readers…so their meaning can flesh out mine, creating something more than perhaps either of us foresaw.

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About joanneeddy

Writer living in North Carolina. Originally from upstate New York. I love my family, my community, and my friends, and embrace 'living deliberately' in the world, trying to make a difference. I have written an as yet unpublished book, The Call, an epic fantasy with historical fiction and folklore elements. My blog is for other writers, for those who love a good read, and for all who, like me, are looking to find and live their call.
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