For the past week, I have gone through a wrenching process. One where I mutter and sigh the whole time. I’ve been editing. It is rather like a long-overdue closet cleaning – discarding old, faded clothes that may feel comfortable, but I know should be cleared out. The story I wrote so long ago and told you about here has had a makeover.
Re-reading it around Thanksgiving, I thought, Hey, this is pretty good! But even if it looked great on you a decade ago (and still fits), that’s no reason to wear an old dress. So before I send my story out into the world I had to do some serious editing.
BrownEyedMystic, one of my blogosphere heroes in another hemisphere, happens to offer her critiquing skills, gratis. When my story came back a week later, notated with 23 comments and 36 separate edits (badly needed), it was like a week with Stacy & Clinton; my story needed to trash the dated garments, wipe off the blue eye shadow, and restyle the ‘do.
It was easy to use the holidays as an excuse to avoid the task for two weeks: preparing for Christmas, celebrating Christmas, recovering from Christmas, reclaiming my house from Christmas, oh, and then New Year’s. As my free week between the holidays ticked off one, then two days, I knew it was time.
Much to my surprise, taking the criticism was the easy part. Actually following through on editing was hell. Each suggested edit was another article of the old familiar wardrobe getting chucked into the trash can. You want to cry at the insult of the rejection of something so beloved, no matter how truly horrid it may be. An old habit of switching tenses (bad for readers) has to be eradicated like a collection of ubiquitous black t-shirts. Then there is my “wordiness” – it is the atrociously Bedazzler-ed blazers, the trove of thrift shop scarves, and the absurd red platform shoes. It’s true — I love adverbs and adjectives (can’t you tell?)
After the requisite good cry (okay, not really, but we’re at that point of the transformation), I begin to see the story beneath the story. It becomes easier to delete words, then whole sentences. Finding that one perfect adjective to stand alone is exquisite. Like retaining the “flair” that is yours but leaving behind the hot mess, my story is the same but so much better.
Word Stampede is now approximately 650 words shorter (this whole post is about 700 words). The tense is consistent. A word that I previously use in 13 places has been cut down to just one instance. In a few places I leave suggested edits untouched, because I’m the author that’s the way my character thinks.
Once I get the hang of editing, there is no shortage of parts I want to refine. But if every time I read through “for the last time” and find another raft of edits, how will I know when it’s done? This is nail-biting….
The new outfits have been modeled, the hair and makeup have been brought into the current century, but this has all been within the safe embraces of the makeover artists. You want me to go out into the world now, all by myself??
It is time to print out Word Stampede in all of its double-spaced glory (why is it so hard to just press print?!) I am submitting to an independent American magazine, The Sun, where I have read deeply compelling essays, interviews and fiction pieces. It seems like the right place for my story. If they’ll have me.
The outcome of this experience will have to be delayed to a future post – it will be 3-6 months minimum before I can expect my SASE to journey back to my mailbox. However the response reads really won’t matter – if it is a rejection letter, as a writer I will be in good company. At least I followed through and am finally dipping a toe into the pool of publishing. I’m already glad I did it.
NEXT WEEK: Letterpress Workshop!
Disclaimer – I have never worn a Bedazzler-ed anything, I do have taste and can for the most part assemble a decent outfit. Thanks to quality time spent watching Stacy and Clinton.