On polishing


I think I’m finally in the home stretch of edits for my latest short story, “Out Where the Sun Always Shines”.

What I’ve been doing is highlighting the bumpy passages in red (using Word), then retyping, retyping, and retyping until I get something I don’t hate.  I leave it there for a night, then re-read the next day.  If I’m going, “Why the heck is this red?  This is fine!” I change the color back to black and forget about it.  (In some cases, I even Frankenstein

But in this final run, I’ve noticed I’m dead-ending on a few passages– even though I’ve run through them a few times, they’re just not working for me.  So what I did yesterday was grab some 8.5×11″ scratch paper.  Then I visited each highlighted section in the story.  Instead of typing, I as many variations as I could by hand, just free-writing, almost as if I was writing it brand new.   At one point, I filled 3 pages with different variations on a single sentence.

Tedious?  …Actually, no.  Tedious to me is doing the same thing over and over and over again with no visible result or change at the end.  When I polish, I’m attacking the problem phrase or paragraph from as many different angles I can think of (cerebral!  creative!), and when it’s done, I can see the improvement.  Hard work, yes.  Repetitive and boring?  Nein.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m at the “ARE WE THERE YET?” stage.  I’m ready to be done with the story.  But I’m thrilled to discover that editing is just as satisfying as writing.

6 thoughts on “On polishing

  1. I can’t remember where I read it, but they say when you are ready to be done with the story . . . it’s finished. ;-) I wish I could believe that! The perfectionist in me has such a hard time letting go. Every time I look at a “final draft” I still find something to change. Editing is an interesting process that is certainly never boring, but I’ve always found it so hard to know when to stop. :-)

    Good luck with your story.

    1. I’m definitely a perfectionist, but my experience in visual art (like digital painting) has taught me that it IS possible to overwork a piece…And of course, when you’re done, you see little flaws, but that’s just the nature of the beast–better to start on something new (your audience, after a point, doesn’t require perfectionism, but would rather have NEW STUFF!).

      The hardest part about this discovery of editing…is that it made me realize how much work actually finishing my novel is going to be. Tremendous!!

      Thanks for the luck! I’ll announce news about the story here when it’s finished! Drop by anytime!

  2. I remember seeing, err, wossname… umm… I think it was Toni Morrison or someone like that, looking at one of her manuscripts in a glass case on display.

    It was hand-written, double spaced with corrections written on it. She said that, even looking at it on display, she was still making corrections.

    I don’t think you ever really finish things. ^_^

    1. Finish? Nah, but at some point you have to stop noodling with it. Because people like reading, even if it’s not (your idea of) perfect.

      1. Well, yup. It’s not like it’s jus’ writing either, but you know that.

        Weirdly enough, in a 3D modeling class I took this once, someone asked “When do you know that you’re done?” Like, as if there was some cut-n’-dried way of knowing your 3D model was finished.

        The answer was, of course, when you say you are. You’ll never stop tweakin’ stuff, as yew know.

        It’s like someone who used to work in my department used to say, “The perfect is the enemy of the good”… or something to that effect.

    2. Zroon, it’s been six years since you posted this little story about wanting to edit a manuscript under glass and I *still* think about it when I’m working!
      I’ve changed some of my attitude and methods towards rewriting and editing since then, but this story is a reminder that the urge to noodle never goes away! :D

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