Sometimes I will re-read a sentence in one of my WIPs and think, ‘what the heck was I trying to say here?‘
This one fact, more than anything else, is good enough validation that we should always put our writing down long enough to come back to it with fresh eyes. The hope is that those fresh eyes will be confused by something/anything we wrote which does not make sense to the reader.
Today’s Tidbit of Wisdom:
If you put it down long enough, you become the reader.
This is the part where I say how lovely it is to edit. Not everyone loves to edit, and, to be honest, my own relationship with it is probably love/hate at best. But when I love to do it, I really love to do it.
This is never more true a statement as when I am editing my short stories. I suppose, because I understand intrinsically that editing is SO VITAL with short stories. I know it’s important with anything we write. And I also know that one could argue that every word counts in whatever we write, whether it’s as tiny as a haiku or as gargantuan as a big ole tome of a novel. Yes, of course all words matter. BUT…with the short story, EVERY. WORD. MATTERS.
You only have so many words with which to build your entire universe within the confines of a short story. None of those words can afford to lead the reader astray. If you lead the reader astray in the limited universe that a short story entails, you will lose them forever. No amount of breadcrumbs will bring them back to the story in one piece. As READER, every breath you take inside a short story needs to count…needs to get you to the end fully intact and alive. Therefore, every word the writer uses factors into the measuring of the reader’s breathing pattern. That’s just a fact of language…one that writers cannot ignore.
I recently stumbled on a line I had in a short story I was revisiting. I was attempting to get it submission-ready, but knew it still needed some work. For a good three or four minutes I tried not only to figure out what it was I originally attempted to say, but also to figure out how the line fit in with the narrative around it. Picture a basket filled with bright red tomatoes, with a great big juicy green Granny Smith apple right in the middle of it. I didn’t know how the apple got there and I couldn’t figure out a way to leave it there in the basket, surrounded by all those gloriously red tomatoes. I had the sense it somehow didn’t belong.
All this to say PUT YOUR WORK ASIDE. Become unfamiliar with it. This is the best way to ensure you are saying all the things you want to say, in the way you want to say them. If you read it immediately after you finish writing it, you might READ WHAT YOU MEANT in your lines…even though the words on the page don’t match up with what it is you were trying to say. DISTANCE MAKES FOR BETTER EDITING.
Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe I have an apple to remove from a certain basket I’ve been eyeing suspiciously.
Happy Writing. Happy Editing. Happy Friday.