Monthly Archives: November 2014

Editing, part 2

Today I sent my final edited short story manuscript, What Can’t Be Undone, to my editor for forwarding to my publisher, Thistledown Press. Before I did that, I went through my editor’s notes and comments over the last few weeks, re-writing and polishing and  fretting about phrasing and meaning and searching for each story’s meaning, and the best way to say it.  Sometimes it meant hunting for understanding nuance, looking for a single word, the perfect word missing from one particular phrase or scene. In one case, as I pondered, I had to re-examine my understanding – of grief, of mourning, of the pain of loss. It put me into a near-trance. Then I began to fret about the calibre of my work: maybe I should hold onto it indefinitely, re-write each and every phrase, re-examine the stories, some of which I began ten years ago. It had the makings of writer’s block: when is a piece good enough, ready for release? When does a writer need to let go so she can move on to other work?

Of course a piece reflects the writer’s development. Should a writer re-visit her earlier work and re-cast them in light of her improved skills and craft?

The truth of writing, and publishing, to some degree, is contained in what my editor said to me when I expressed my angst.  He told me we  grow as writers; that if we are lucky, we may outgrow what we wrote; that if we are lucky, we become better writers (and, I inferred, maybe better people). Doubts go with the trade. How good a writer I was, how good a writer I am, will become… That all stops mattering when I remember why I write. Tell the story the best you  can today. Honour the story.

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I’ve been communicating via email with Seán Virgo, my editor for What Can’t Be Undone, as we work our way through the process of fine-tuning the stories in this collection prior to publication by Thistledown Press in spring 2015.

One of the rewarding details of this process is how acute a reader Seán is, and how respectful of my process as a writer.  “Loving and fierce” is what he promised me he’d be as an editor, and he is. No punches pulled, no hidden clichés left to fester.

So I’m learning that sometimes I learn the story as I set it on the page. All that backstory and flashback is sometimes just for my benefit, and if it slows the story on the page, it’s time to exorcise it.

And this: trust your reader! Right, don’t spoonfeed those smart folks.

Another cool result is how clearly I see the emerging common threads and themes in these stories. What are they, you ask? You’ll have to wait just a few more months. It makes me wonder, though. What writers are drawn to set down on paper, over and over, in different forms. What images and ideas haunt us.

Partway through the process, I received an email from a friend. As I read it, I found myself thinking, “Oh, there’s the start of a new story!” Ha. Everything is grist for a story, an essay, a poem. Art, imitating life. Or is it the other way around? Can’t tell sometimes…

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