As I finish up the first revision (second? third? it feels like I’ve been continuously revising it for a few weeks now, but this is a first “quick edit” as I wait for reader responses to come back and do a bigger revision) of Mercy (which I’m now thinking I’ll retitle as “Merciful”), I’ve been shaking the dust off some short stories that I’ve had kicking around the back corners of my computer. Since it’s October, I’ve found a couple of Halloween story contests that I’ve decided to enter one of them in. One of the contests has a 1,500 word limit for the story which made it incredibly challenging since the story I had was over 3,000 words, but it was a great opportunity to learn how to be concise, precise, and spare with my thoughts and imagery. Here is a link to a copy of the latest revision, and please feel free to vote on it (I mean heck, I do want to win, don’t I?).
I wish I could express how difficult editing is. I’m sure other writers have mentioned this before, and it certainly bears repeating: most of the writing comes in the editing. The first draft is (usually, but there are never any hard, fast rules in writing) weakly written, poorly put together, but there are parts that may still sing, a core of a story that needs polishing, characters that have the proper ring to them. Editing is all about cutting away the chaff from the wheat, improving what works and discarding what doesn’t. Still, it’s hard to chop away large passages that you’ve worked over for hours and days. I’ve done this twice now with Merciful, hacking away big parts of the ending which felt soft and mushy, lacked a real visceral payoff. At some point in a few weeks, maybe around Christmas, I’ll take all the comments I’ve received and go through the novel with a hacksaw and a fine tooth comb and groom it into what I hope will be a solid first novel.
First? Well second… I did write some other stuff before this. It wasn’t good for the most part, and much of it was sheer crap, including the long novella/short novel I wrote. But even in that there was a kernel of good stuff that others could see. I just needed to do some weeding and polishing, which I’ve learned since then. I’m a better writer for having spent the better part of three years writing drivel and practicing the craft, learning how to be lean and concise without losing what I feel is my voice as an author, the way I present my prose.
Ten more days until Halloween. Are all your ghosts and goblins ready?