Post # 11 – Editing



Is there anything worse than editing? Okay, there is nuclear holocaust. And genocide. And famine. And cancer. But besides those and likely thousands more, is there anything worse than editing?

Editing usually means I’m not working on a shiny, new story. Instead, I’m probably reviewing a story I’m sick of because it’s the fifth, or tenth, time I’m reading it.

I think I’ve pared my editing down to four drafts. The first draft is the hot off the press rough draft. The second draft is after I’ve reviewed it once to plug any glaring holes and clean up spelling and grammar. Then I send it to my critique group. The third draft is when I incorporate their feedback. By that time, the story has sat long enough I can review it fairly objectively and really see what’s missing or needs to be cut. Hopefully, my critique group has seen that too. The fourth draft is for copy edits. And if I’m not completely sick of it, I’ll read through one more time.

Then the rejections come in, and I feel the need to edit again before sending the story back out. Heinlein’s Rule Three says to avoid that trap, and I agree to a certain extent. However, as a new writer, my stories contain many rookie mistakes. I didn’t even know they were mistakes until reading Sam Knight’s Blood From Your Own Pen and K.M. Weiland’s blog Helping Writers Become Authors. So I edit out those mistakes as best I can when a story I already have out comes back rejected. I don’t know if those mistakes were why an editor rejected a particular story, but I want to eliminate the easy reasons for editors to reject my work.

What I didn’t realize at the start of my writing adventure was how long this process took. Professionals seem to do this all in a matter of days, if not hours. Of course, they probably aren’t sending short stories to a critique group or beta readers. And my guess is the magazine editors will forgive if their story has a few spelling/grammatical errors. As an unpublished author, I don’t have that luxury. My submissions need to be near perfect to have a fighting chance.

Professional authors also know what they’re doing from the start, so I imagine their first drafts are considerably better than my own. They know to avoid passive voice, whereas I have to constantly remind myself. They know how to avoid the info dump whereas I’m still learning to subtly work in backstory.  I’ll get there… with years of practice.

So I keep editing. And editing. But it’s always more fun to work on a shiny, new story.

Post #4 – Critique Groups



I decided to start writing short stories for two reasons.  One, I did not think I had an idea I could flesh out to novel length.  Two, I was not confident that I could, or was good enough to, write a novel.  (I decided to write picture books because of my daughters.)  That may signify a lack of confidence or motivation on my part.  Probably both are true, but I am gaining confidence and motivation.  I’ve read several books on the art of writing science fiction, and I joined a writers group.  Both have helped, and I’ll write more on both in other posts.

I also created an informal critic group for my work.  I would consider it formal if everyone in the group were writers, and knew about each other, and all could submit work for critique.  As it stands now, none of that is true.

One member is my very understanding wife, who also is serving as my copy editor.  Another is my sister, whose interests are remarkably like my own.  Yet another is a good friend, who last year I discovered was in the process of writing her own sci-fi novel (which I hope to critique).  I met the last member in the writers group mentioned above.  Her writing interests appear to overlap my own.  Plus she is the author of several self-published books.  Given my reluctance to start my own novel, that experience alone is valuable.

At first, I simply wanted to share my work with someone rather than letting it collect dust, unread on my hard drive.   That’s when I recruited family.  Then, when my wife and sister provided insightful feedback on a couple of stories, I knew I needed those critiques to become a better writer.  (My sister actually lead me to an idea that solved a major issue in the story I had worked on the longest.)

That’s when I started recruiting fellow writers, either beginner or established.  As I make connections in this field, I hope to expand my critique group.  Everyone brings a different perspective, and I never want to overburden any one person, which I feel could happen when producing short stories fairly frequently.  At the same time, I am finding it extremely useful to bounce ideas off people who have not stared at the same paragraph for a week trying to figure out what happens next.