I was editing one of my stories tonight trying to get everything j-u-s-t right. I went back through it twice, checking each line and paragraph, talking through dialogue out loud and speaking sentences to ensure the proper punctuation.
And it’s a funny thing about editing–at least for me. Each time I go through a story, I can almost always find one more tweak or two; something I didn’t catch in the first edits. I don’t see it as a bad thing. Editing happens in layers and I figure each time I read through a story it gets a little clearer, a little tighter, a little more powerful.
However, when I’m going through a story and start finding lots of tweaks and needs for changes it tells me I’ve got a lot more readthroughs ahead of me.
So back to my original thought–I was reworking this story trying to shine it up as best I could for a looming submission deadline. We’ve all been there. And for this submission I really want to send in my best possible work. So I scoured through it, yet again, looking for issues, rereading passages out loud and so on. Except I felt like I was scraping at it.
I was trying to force perfection.
I walked away from the story and decided to work on this post instead. I realized I was stressing over it and trying to “make it fit” the round hole to nail a publication. And I know you’re sitting there thinking, “Yeah. That’s what you do. It’s how you get it published. So, what’s the problem?”
And really, you’re correct. More or less. It is the end game and goal. If your submission is full of grammaticals and typos and plot fails, yeah it’s probably not getting picked up. However (have you noticed I love that segue?), sometimes you have to let it be.
Your stories are your children in a very real sense and sometimes you have to send them out in the world. If they’re not perfect, they may stumble and fail, but it doesn’t mean they’re bad or worthless.
I’ve had two publications happen now where I was not asked for edits. Sounds pretty cool right? Well, in a word, no. The fact is, those two were taken as is and set to publication without any other eyes on them. They were, in fact, not perfect because once I read them in said anthologies I winced each time I came across something that should have been edited.
The point is, my stories are never absolutely perfect and that’s okay. I edit them the best I can and send them off. If the story is solid, if it builds tension and overall drop kicks the reader, or at least slams them up against the wall by the end, the little things can get fixed . . . or in some cases overlooked.
Write your stories and edit them for all your worth. BUT, do not lose sleep over it. Send your best efforts out and let the world take a peek. Even if you get a rejection, it gives you another chance to read through it again and fire it out another time. Sooner or later it will get there. Life is about falling short, picking yourself up again and getting back in the game over and over until you get it.
I talked with a friend of mine about happy accidents and that sometimes a story may fail with one press or publisher, but actually ends up in a better place later on (thanks Tim!). It’s happened to both of us, and I do have a little faith in the fact that stories find the right homes at the right time. I believe it whole heartedly because I’ve watched it happen several times. I’ve submitted stories I thought were a perfect fit, only to have them rejected, and then later picked up in a way that I was happier about after the fact.
So trust in your muses and your guides, or whatever you prefer to call them (the mad scientist prodding your cortex in a jar if you care to follow that Matrix road).
And above all, don’t beat your children until they become something they’re not. Let them breathe. Guide them but don’t micro-manage them. Send them out into the world and allow them to find their way because sooner or later they will make you proud. Promise.
Now I have to get this out and go submit my story. I’m tired of editing it and I’ve done the best I can. If it fails where I’m sending it, there’s another market just waiting for it. Wish me luck . . .