If there’s one thing more difficult than writing a story it’s editing it. Whether it’s a piece of flash fiction, that third novella in a series or the door stop of a fantasy novel you’ve been writing for ten years, editing is extremely demanding.
Not a Friday goes by where I don’t stress over getting my Flash! Friday entry below that 160 word limit. Cutting is easy; cutting and keeping the story intact can require surgeon like precision.
In the last week I’ve been working on editing two different projects. The first was my entry for the Krampus Cracker project, GLASS OF MILK and the other was my CampNaNoWriMo novella, TATTOO. Each offered their own challenges.
TAKING A CHAINSAW TO A ROSE
I’d already done a couple of edits on GLASS OF MILK. Family and friends had read and enjoyed the little Krampus story that could and, as I mentioned last week, I was pleased with the end result.
On Sunday the 24th I sat down at my computer and decided that I might as well send it in. There were still a few weeks before the September 5th deadline but I wasn’t rushing. I guess I didn’t want it sat there, playing on my mind. That might encourage over editing. Little did I know . . .
Before attaching it to the e-mail I thought it best to read through the entry criteria again just to make sure everything was covered off. Not winning because the story is bad is one thing but if it’s something small with regards to how the piece was entered then that’s much more frustrating. I scrolled down the list;
1) Body of the e-mail must include so-and-so? Check.
2) Must be an original piece? Check.
3) Cannot be published elsewhere? Dito.
4) Must be between 300-500 words? WTF!!!
It seems that my vision had betrayed me when first I gazed upon this festive of writing competitions. I had it in my dense little head that the word count was between 500-800. And I’d used almost every inch of it.
I couldn’t breathe. Suddenly September 5th seemed too soon. How could I cut nearly 300 words from GLASS OF MILK and still keep the story intact? Would it be better if I just started again with another idea? The next hour played out like this:
ME: It’s impossible. 299 words? I’ll never manage it.
WIFE: Don’t be silly. You’ll work it out.
ME: It’s too much. It’ll ruin it.
WIFE: You’re clever. You’ll manage it.
ME: 264 words to go!
ME: 182 words to go!
ME: Wow, 90 words to go. That whole section just went!
ME: 34 words to go. It’s getting tough.
Now my wife will probably say that I’m over dramatic and sure, maybe I panicked a little prematurely. But I genuinely didn’t think I would manage to cut a third of my story and still keep so many of my favourite lines. I went and sat in the living room, exhausted, leaving the wife to tell me just how bad it was. Ten excruciating minutes passed before she came to find me.
WIFE: Do you want my honest opinion?
ME: I guess.
WIFE: It’s better.
And I think she’s right. Somehow, even with the limited word count of 800 I had waffled, especially in the final third. And the character of Bartel was written badly at the end. I’m more pleased with the shorter version, the one hidden beneath. I checked everything over one last time and clicked send.
I wonder if it was supposed to happen that way.
FROM THE TOP
After that stress it was time to work on something with a little more meat on the bone and no word limit in sight.
Back onto Scrivener and I began work on the second draft of TATTOO. After reading through what I wrote in July I was starting to form a better picture of the story. As I’m planning this as a series, I’ve been brainstorming subplots and arcs. This, of course, has led to several changes.
The main chapters that will incur my wrath are nearer the beginning. I think I mentioned in the post at the end of CampNaNo that the character of Julie had changed over the course of writing. Some of that change is a little forced, a little rushed. Obviously, at the time ideas were fighting each other but now I need to make the first half of the novella match up tidier with the second half.
I’m planning on changing the abuse side of Julie’s character. It’s not going completely but I don’t think the turn around for her can be dealt with realistically in this shorter work. Maybe if I was writing a novel and the abuse was more central to the plot then I would take on the challenge. However, in something as short as TATTOO, I just wouldn’t do relationship abuse any justice and might inadvertently upset people. That I don’t want.
I have the fifteen chapters all planned out now. It’ll be easier working the second draft which is becoming more like a rewrite. Now that I know the destination so well I can mould the chapters precisely. The characters too are being more fleshed out now. Hopefully all this will help me form the beginning better than the slap dash original.
Meanwhile, at the other end, things are looking pretty good. I’m still happy with the final few chapters and only small things need tweaking.
Every time I read the final chapter, the one I didn’t even discuss in the CampNaNo post least it spoil anything, it makes me want to start work on the next book. I know I need to focus on book 1 but, in planning the long game for Julie, I keep getting ideas that I want to write now.
So at the moment it’s all about TATTOO with the occasional UNCANNY TALES for a break. I’m going to start pushing myself now and part of this is thanks in no small part to some fellow writers I follow on Twitter. Their regular posts about their writing and editing progress or updates on shorts story and flash fiction competition makes me envious that I don’t make more time. I worry that these guys are going to make it one day soon and I’m going to be left behind as just a wannabe.
Must keep writing.
See you in seven.