Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Editing Process

Oops.  I tried to do this from school earlier today, and here we are, with a two word headline and nothing underneath.  Sorry about that.

So, I just finished editing a short story last night!  It was also due last night, and it was only through the grace of my teacher that I got it submitted...  This is the big one, folks.  I'm writing for the big time, now, trying to get some actual money for doing this thing that I love doing and try to do every day.  GCC has a literary magazine, which is just awesome, and along with that is the district contest that I'm submitting the same piece to.  It was a hard piece to edit, mainly because of the word limit constraints - max 3000 words for this contest, and my second draft clocked in at a solid 2997.  Here's how I did it, and why I now think that this piece is publishable.  NOTE: I have not actually published anything.  I feel really, REALLY good about this one, but I haven't been published in anything more prestigious than Teen Ink magazine for my crappy high school poetry, so take pretty much anything I say, including advice, with as much salt as will make it palatable.    

First - write it.  I wrote mine in two sittings the same night, about three hours total.  My teacher had asked for a rough draft, so I gave her one, I didn't even look at it from the time I wrote it to when I handed it in.  She had individual conferences with us about our pieces, which were invaluable in helping me out, trying to figure out how to make the thing stronger.

I guess that's step two - have a great teacher, or someone who can read the rough draft and make general comments about how it could be generally improved as a story.

Three - Do a rewrite.  Take a break first, however long you think it needs to be before going back to it with an open mind as as a reader, not a writer, but once you do go back look at the story, read the entire thing first, and then go back and fix anything that doesn't quite match up, or isn't exactly the emotion you're trying to convey.  Basically a quick once over to make sure that everything makes sense, the same kind of thing you do with a novel, except so much quicker because your short story is probably not longer than 20 pages.  Mine was ten, and it still took some time to read it through like six times after every revision.

Four - Take another break.  If it doesn't feel 'done', take as many breaks as you need to.  If you don't have a deadline, who cares how long it takes you between breaks?  A week, two?  A month, if you're working on other projects?  The goal is that whenever you take another look at your story, you don't remember what you fixed the last time.  Don't read it as a writer, read it as a reader.

Five - Another edit.  This is different than the way I plan to edit my novel, where this step and the next one would be switched, but for a short story I really think that your edit should come before the final edit from someone else.  Look at it one more time, make sure that it's as good as you yourself can make it, and send it off to a friend for one, last look.

Six - For a short story I think that any final edits should be from someone else's eyes, since by now you've probably read your own story a half dozen times, and by the time you get close to being done there's no way you can put as much space between you and your work as is needed for a final, comprehensive edit.  My fiancé edited my story right before I sent it off, and I only checked to make sure he wasn't deleting anything important, otherwise I didn't even want to know what he was doing.

I hope this helped!  Really, I feel really good about this.  We'll see how it goes, but not until next semester...  Oh well.  I'll keep writing other stories until then.  Have a great night, everybody!  See you tomorrow!

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