Recently I finished another short story, and I put it up on the writing forum (http://accentuatewriters.com/) to be critiqued. As with most of my stuff, some people liked it and some people didn’t; no big deal.
But then, the owner of the forum and very, very good writer and editor Michelle L. Devon offered a full-on edit of the thing, which I happily agreed to. I was honored that she’d take the time out of her busy day to throw down an edit on my amateur piece. Thrilled, in fact.
Now, I won’t put anything up to be read by others unless I have done a few edits on it myself, so this thing wasn’t a first-draft hack. It was ready to go, or so I thought. I had not re-written it yet, which is something I have recently enjoyed doing to my short stories, but it was as edited as I could get it in its current form.
I can’t edit.
I began to go through the stuff she had fixed and/or suggested, and it was really good. The things she was changing were amateur mistakes that I thought were pretty much behind me at this point. Some of the fixes and suggestions I had actually considered at some point, but many weren’t. Most of her edits were fixing my weak writing.
Each and every sentence she fixed was much stronger after the fix. Each idea she suggested would, in fact, make the story stronger. I can’t believe that I missed all those errors. Time to break bad habits.
One of my favorite authors is Clive Barker. I love the way he flows, and I love the words he uses (language, folks, it’s all about the language). When I read his stuff, I can’t help but marvel at his strength with words. He truly is a genius. It’s no wonder he’s a best-selling author whose stories have gone on to be movies; the man knows what the hell he’s doing.
Then there’s my junk.
Don’t worry, I’m not putting myself down. I don’t do that. But CRIMENY, it would be nice to have a story flow like his. Just one, that’s all I ask. The fact that I write so weakly is what keeps me from tackling a novel, really. If I cannot manage 3,500 words without a shit load of glaring errors, what the heck would become of 100,000? No, I’ll continue writing short stories until I can somehow rid myself of the amateur mistakes I seem so prone to making.
I’m convinced that it has a lot to do with the story being mine. I wrote it, and so I’m bound not to catch small errors I would probably catch if I were reading someone else’s tale. That’s why, folks, it’s *so* important to have an impartial third-party who knows what they are doing read your stuff before anyone else sees it. An artist should never have the final say in his own creations.
Anyhow, rant over. I am just finding it hard to believe that, after three years of writing full-time, I’m still using “as” when I should be using “while” or that I still use a lot of “ands” where there should plainly be two separate sentences.
Example: I stopped a lot as I walked to school that day, and each time I did, I thought about going back home.
I stopped a lot while I walked to school that day. Each time I did, I thought about going back home.
The second instance is clearly stronger. Hey, at least I know what some of my weaknesses are now. That’s why budding musicians or chess players are highly encouraged to receive lessons from a professional coach. No matter how talented the student may be, they simply can’t recognize all the slight errors they make which are holding them back from being great. A pro only has to glance at them doing their thing to see what is wrong, and that information is priceless. It really is.
From now on, all my tales go to Michelle for editing before I submit them to publishers. I don’t mind paying her for a professional edit half as much as I mind sending out sub-par work that will never get printed. That just wastes everyone’s time.
I’m a writer, damnit, and I want to be published. I know what to do, and I’m determined to do it. Here’s to eradicating mistakes we constantly make, and to new horizons.