December 26, 2000

OK, so sometimes I get *really* bored. I mean, like, slack-jawed slow leak of
intelligence bored. So I wind up staring at some random thing until it either 
loses all meaning or becomes profound. (This is how I've come to nearly worship 
a few hand puzzles I have on my desk. All must hail.) 

One day I was doing this while editing a story I hope will soon be published 
professionally. At the end, there had been a net addition of *precisely* 26 words. 

26 words -- less than 2 lines of text in the font I'm using to write this -- 
to turn what had been an okay story in my estimation into one worthy 
of great praise and money for its fabu author.  And it got me thinking -- 
maybe there's a formula for this! 

Some near-mystical combination of symbols and numbers that adds up to: 

The Perfect Story. 

And then I sat there thinking about what it could be for several minutes 
until I remembered just how much pain math gave me. Then I had to 
huddle in a little ball for a while. 

No, but, what *if*, right? I mean, what is editing but a complex dance 
of mathematics? Divide the number of paragraphs by the use of your 
favorite word. Multiply the atmosphere by the plot factor. Subtract 
adjectives based on number of subjects per sentence. Add commas by 
either the factor of grammar or flow or, sometimes, both. 

It's all so precise, when you get right down to it, as anyone who has 
ever done any close editing can tell you. Sure, it may *look* like 
an arbitrary process based on personal style, but where did that 
style come from? 

What's the formula for Edgily Abrupt? For Lushly Grandiose? 

Don't you ever wonder?