Four Edits and Counting
I have spent the day writing. This morning was dedicated to a short story that has been in the works for about a month now. When I hacked out the initial version I was so excited. I gave it to my editor for her seal of approval. I got it back with all my delusions of granduer wiped from my mind.
When I finished today’s writing session I proudly informed her that I thought my story was done. She looked at me (without even reading it) and with a smile said, “I doubt it’s done.” Wait, WHAT? I have re-written this story four times and she tells me it’s not done? I trust my editor’s judgement, painful as it is to hear and If it wasn’t for her I would have called it done after the first draft. Now that I’m on #4 I can see how the story has more life blown into it, but does it really need improving?
I have learned a great deal through this writing process and I am more aware of the pit falls the novice writer can fall into. The goal in doing this short story is to improve my writing skills and get my mental gears turning when I dive into my book. I thought it would be good to save each draft of this story separately so that I can go back to review how it has has developed over the course of editing. The before and after snapshots in this piece really tell the story of my story. Take a look at the opening paragraph.
The first draft….
This morning I woke in a hotel room. The streaked windows were clear enough to see down to the wet streets and blowing trees. A gloomy day at best. I went to the lobby for the usual coffee, powdered eggs, slimy sausage and a bland bagel. The breakfast was always the same, the lobby always the same, the people always the same. I carried my tray back to my room for a solitary breakfast sitting by the window looking out at the dark day. After my shower I dress appropriately for the morning and in my reflection I see my black dress, black sweater, and black shoes. Always the same.
The fourth draft…..
The sheets are fresh and crisp. My head burrows deeper into the reaches of the white cave. A sweet melody plays from the alarm that contradicts the dreary day ahead of me. Peeling my eyes open I fumble my fingers to slide the alarm into silence. Today presses heavy against my chest allowing only short shallow breaths. I trudge to the closed curtains behind which hangs a gloomy day. Water runs down the window pane in torrents. Beyond are streets slick with rain and mammoth trees hanging low from the weight of the deluge. The window mounted cooler kicks in with a blast of cold air pushing me back into the room to dress. I prefer to ignore the need to move forward in the day.
Both paragraphs tell the reader that this is about a person who is in a hotel room and it is raining outside. What the first draft fails to do is bring feeling into the story. By the fourth draft not only is it raining outside, but everything about the weather is also a part of the gloom of what the character reluctantly faces in the day ahead.
I once knew a speech teacher who never gave his students an ‘A’. He explained that to give an ‘A’ was to restrict the student from improving. An ‘A’ implied they were perfect and there was no need to strive higher. I think my editor follows this same theory and she is right, this story isn’t done yet and there is still plenty of room for improvement.
First of all, I don’t like that teacher. OF COURSE there’s room for improvement.
But that’s not your point.
I am the Queen of drafts. Rewrite. again and again.
I just wish that when I want a piece to be done bad enough it will miraculously be good enough. Sigh. But for not. What I wonder with each rewrite and draft is this, when will I KNOW it’s done?
and not done because I’m sick of it, but done because it’s good enough.