Monday, June 10, 2013

Time makes the pen grow sharper

Last week I started editing a novelette that I wrote last year. In fact, it was exactly a year ago that I wrote Expendable. I had a lot of hopes for this story when I sent it to The Writers of the Future Contest. It was the best story I'd written to date and I was a nervous wreck while I waited for the results. Well, the story was rejected and coincidently my heart was broken.

I'm not talking about the "I'm never going to love again" kind of broken. That kind of heartbreak is too pink and fluffy for my taste. It also wasn't the "My life is over and I'm never going to have a career" kind of heartbreak. I'm not that emo and I had no desire to use all of my black liquid eyeliner in one night. This was the "What did I do wrong this time?" kind of broken.

I did multiple passes on the story to make sure everything was clean and complete, I passed it around both of my critique groups, I even e-mailed NASA to fact check some things (they never responded, by the way). After all that work it still wasn't good enough. What got me through, other than encouragement from a couple good friends, was the knowledge that Dave wouldn't have rejected it without good reason. At the time I had no idea what that reason may have been, just that somewhere in the document was a flaw.

Those of you that have followed my blog for a while know that I had to revisit the story during NaNo because I wanted to write the sequel novelette. That's when I found a couple of big typos of the "I can't remember what this character's name is" variety. It was humiliating but it dispelled the mystery around the rejection.

When I revisited it last week, it was with the intent to improve the opening and do one final pass to make sure I didn't overlook anything else before I sent it out into the world again. I spent two days on the opening to make sure all the changes fit in seamlessly. Two days was a little longer than I wanted to spend on it but it wasn't unprecedented. Besides, it was all worthwhile in the end. What I didn't anticipate was spending the next week cleaning up the first half of the story. That's right. It was just the first half. What's worse was that I spent two days on six paragraphs. Six paragraphs!

If I'd known how rough it was I wouldn't have submitted it in the first place -- which is the point of this blog. I didn't know. My skills are more refined than they were a year ago. All the purple prose and unfinished thoughts that I've been fixing were invisible to me back then. Heck, they were invisible to me back in November when I re-read the story. This has left me in a strange state. Usually I detest editing. I do it because it's a very necessary step, I'm just not masochistic enough to enjoy it. However this edit has been a joy because each mistake reaffirms how much I've grown in a short amount of time. It's actually made me excited to dive into my flawed short story from March.

When I've finished editing Expendable I'm not going to resubmit it to the contest. Instead I'm going to send it to market. Why? Because I still believe in this story. Despite all the flaws of last year's draft it's still a damn good story and I'm very happy that my increased skills have allowed me to once again make it my best short work to date.

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