Editing Slip Sliding Away Part 1

Editing my book… well I’ve been editing what is now Slip Sliding Away since 2008 and to give you an idea of my editing journey I’ll tell you about how I settled on the title. It hasn’t always been called Slip Sliding Away. Honest truth, the title of the short story that would someday generate my first novel was Scenes From a Local Bar. In retrospect, that was a piss poor and thoroughly inaccurate title because it was just one scene in a local bar. Can you blame me for the extra “S” though? Scene From a Local Bar just didn’t have the pop and didn’t sync with the Billy Joel period I was immersed in at the time.

 

This title lasted about as long as the Brett Favre era in New York and Scenes had given way to Love, Loss & Lunacy in New Jersey by January of 2009. I liked this title for quite some time, it was loaded with assertions about the story and paid homage to my literary hero, Hunter S. Thompson. Satisfied I got down to the meat and potatoes of turning my creative writing class short story into a full length novel… OK actually that’s a load of crap. After graduating UVM the only things I got down to were drinking, hopelessly pining after women I couldn’t have and prodigiously wasting time. It wasn’t until my lost summer of 2010 in Point Pleasant, NJ that serious attempts at writing a novel were made. But that’s another story, we’re talking about editing… at least we will be, I promise.

 

As I was going back to the drawing board with the story itself I also decided it needed a new title and No Way Back was born.  That took the cake over its closest competitors Life of Reilly and Further to Fly. Again, that name stuck while I buckled down to write, for real this time. I even used that title when I sent out really ragged rough drafts to family and friends for comments. It wasn’t until my friend Emily told me one night that No Way Back sounded like a cheesy 90’s action movie that I had any doubts. Then to my horror I logged onto Imdb.com and discovered that it was, in fact, a cheesy 90’s action movie starring Russell Crowe. Emily laughed and told me to stop trying to think of the catchiest title and just find something that represented what the book was trying to say, its soul if you will. This had me mired in quite the quandary and, as usual when I’m lost I turned to Paul Simon.

 

I was making my way through his solo career when his 1977 hit Slip Sliding Away came on. I listened to him sing about these people, the desperately unhappy wife who can’t help but lay in bed, lamenting what her life could’ve been. About the father who yearned to make amends to his young son but dared not wake him. Paul ends the song by saying that while we’re working our jobs and collecting that pay check, we think we’re gliding down life’s highway but really, we’re letting it slip away (or slip slide away to be more precise). It occurred to me that this alto ego I had created, Michael Reilly, could easily be one of the people in this song. After that it took about two additional playbacks of the song to decide that Slip Sliding Away would be an appropriate title for the book.

 

So what does all that have to do with editing? The reason I shared this story is to illustrate that editing is never a straight line, it’s more a journey you take down many different roads and where you end up is almost never where you began. As it stands right this moment, I’m still in the editing process (As a first time novelist, I can tell you that trying to get you book into print is like being Moses, you go through so much and after a while become convinced that you’ll never see the promised land), and I won’t write more until it’s all done and I have a full perspective on the whole thing.