Editorial Frustration

I’ve been working all-hours for some weeks now on the Battle of Brunanburh book. It’s terrific stuff, and we’re making real progress. No NaNoWriMo for me, I’m doing Local Academic Editing Month (LoAcEdMo).

I don’t much talk about this part of my life, since it’s rather boring to most folks, but I simply must share today’s dreadful bout of frustration. The book, if you don’t recall, is intended to capture all extant medieval literary sources for study of the Battle of Brunanburh. One of the long-planned sources to be included is a Middle English poem called The Stanzaic Guy of Warwick. It’s a very cool poem in general, but we were planning to include only a few hundred lines of it: a section towards the end in which Guy (who, like this guy Guy has no last name) returns to England as a pilgrim and is forced to fight Colbrond, a giant from Africa, in a man-to-man combat to preserve England from the wicked Danes. He wins the victory, saving King Athelstan’s kingdom, before fading back into the country.

I spent the last couple of days feverishly working on the edition and the facing-page translation for this bit, and I completed it this afternoon. As luck would have it, about 5 minutes after I finished it occurred to me to wonder if we should really include this piece at all. It doesn’t have a lot to do with Brunanburh — Athelstan and fighting Danes are about the size of it — and we aren’t planning to include the other appearances of the Guy v. Colbrond fight, of which I can think of half a dozen just off the top of my head, some pre-dating the Stanzaic Guy version.

I’m thinking now that there’s no need to include all the versions, and I’m wondering further about whether to include the one I’ve already labored on. It might be better if that work goes for naught.

2 Comments

  1. You know the answer: Kill your darlings.

    As you’ve already stated here, the editor must perpetually ask of every word, “How does this serve the story?”

    If it doesn’t serve, it must die. Save your hard work somewhere and perhaps you’ll find another place for it eventually.

    Speaking as one who has been murdering her darlings for decades….

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