Friday, March 26, 2010

Editing - Outcome

The editing of my short story is complete. Well, complete enough to submit, anyway. It was quite a bit more painful than I'd really anticipated. I've rarely edited my fiction before when I really, really felt I needed to get it as good as it could be. Nearly all of my work to date was either for personal consumption (written just because or perhaps to use in a D&D game) or for a creative writing class (where I wasn't usually concerned that it wouldn't be good enough, even without extensive editing. It just had to meet the teacher's expectations, which I usually found weren't painfully high).

In this case, though, I'd taken the time and effort to write a work of fiction explicitly to submit to a particular publication. Sure, I can shop it around elsewhere if it doesn't get picked up the first time out (and, realistically, I'd be crazy to expect that it would), but that's not why I wrote it. I wrote it in hopes of being published in a particular anthology, so it felt fairly important that I get it right on the first try.

The bulk of the actual work went into adding depth and clarity in a few places that my readers had suggested were shallow or unclear. But the bulk of the angst came from re-reading and re-re-reading my evolving work and wondering whether I was certain that the changes were improvements over the original. I ended up adding a fair amount of additional text to a story that was right at the 5,000 word limit, which meant that I also needed to find around 400 words worth of deletions to make to get it back down to its fighting weight. I wasn't emotionally attached to those 400 words at all, but I was really very worried that I was chopping out detail, elegance, poetic language, or whatever else it was that one might have been inclined to argue was the "soul" of the work (assuming someone were to make such an argument).

So here's where I ended up: The story weighed in at right about 5,000 words, and I'm confident that I found and crushed every typo, missing comma, missing quote, or other amateurish error that might have instantly kicked it to the reject pile without deeper consideration. I also took care of a couple of places where continuity was lacking or the story was otherwise broken in some fundamental (if usually minor) way. I still think that the story is fun to read and it feels well-written to me when I look it over. Whether or not it's one of the 7-10 best-written short stories the editor received, well, we'll have to wait and see on that one. The editing process took a day or so longer than I'd expected, but at least when I clicked the send button to deliver it I felt confident that it represented my best work as I'm currently capable of doing it.

Today I start the morning cooking with the kindergartners, after which I'm very much looking forward to diving back into my novel. It's funny how much I begin to miss it when I have to go for a few days without working on it. Especially now, as chapters 14-16 represent the first big battle and I'm having a ton of fun writing those scenes. That said, I also suspect I may need to re-write huge swaths of those chapters now that I've had time to reflect on them. Good thing I've had all of this practice at editing, lately!

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