Hitting the big-red ‘publish’ button is hard.
I’m a perfectionist, a planner. I’m not interested in typing up any old tripe and hoping for the best. I don’t want stray, commas, cluttering up my text; repetitive pronouns; superfluous descriptions; or long, winding info-dumps that are being choked to death by adverbs. I want to write good stories that read well, just like the books I enjoy reading.
In other news, experts have concluded that squares have more corners than circles.
This is hardly a revelation, and I know I’m not alone in this mindset. However, this tweaking nature of mine (not twerking, the world’s not ready for that) was once more made apparent this morning. I was re-reading a story I wrote a few months ago. It’s called Switch, a short story from the Lords of Misrule world. The story forms part of a compilation of stories by various authors: Glimpse.
This is the opening of Switch.
A grid of shadows lay across the bed, rigid lines of moonlight that sliced the crumpled sheets into squares. Benn screwed his eyes shut and lay still, listening to his breathing.
Had it worked?
Reaching across with his left hand, he probed at the flesh around his hip. It was tender, but it didn’t hurt.
Maybe it had worked?
He opened his eyes.
Benn twitched the thin sheet to one side and pulled his knee up to his chest. He was gritting his teeth, biting back the pain that was always there. Only today, with his bare legs bathed in the bright moonlight, his hip didn’t hurt. There was a red dot on his hip where they’d injected him with this miracle compound of theirs, but otherwise he was unmarked. He took a deep breath, and, before he could change his mind, pushed himself to his feet. A momentary stumble, and he was standing: cane free, no pain. He stood still, reveling in the feeling. Blah blah woof woof.
Now. . .
There are several things that I’d change. They’re not wrong as such (though my BrE eyes struggle with the spelling of ‘reveling’ that seems to have slipped in there), the story’s just not as I would have written it now.
After that realisation, my thought process ran along these lines:
- As an author contributing to a compilation, my asking for changes at such a late stage is not going to go down well.
- If I changed it, would I be tempted to go back to it again at a later date and request more changes?
- At what point would I be happy?
- Do I have time? (Says the man writing a blog and trying to make it pitch-perfect, the hypocrisy of life 😉 )
- This story could be important.
- Should I just leave Switch as it is and put it down to experience?
Is this normal?
I think yes.
I’m going to say this indecision is normal behaviour and a sign that I’m progressing as a writer. The more I write, and more importantly, the more I read, the better I understand how this process of writing a story works. I still have a long way to go, but the quicksand I’ve been wading through is a little more like a quagmire now, at least in places.
The ‘process of progress’, as with any profession/ job/ sport or skill, primarily depends on two things:
- putting the hours in,
- putting the product of those hours on the line.
In medicine/ therapy it may mean treating someone instead of just talking about what the studies say (this is a theme that crops up in the Lords of Misrule). In sport it may mean competing. In writing it means publishing. It opens you up to potential criticism, but helps you to hone your skills. Again, this is not exactly groundbreaking news, but for me there was a big difference between writing a book, admitting I’m writing a book, and actually publishing it.
But, but, but . . .
You’re only as good as your last gig/ story/ deal/ game, right?
A poor story, with dodgy editing (and I’ve read a few recently that have made me want to drown my kindle), may put a reader off your work for life. However, the beauty (and curse) of self-publishing means you have many more chances to keep getting that last event ‘right’. There are also a lot of readers on the planet (some still learning to read or yet to be born), and for every ‘hater’ there will be a ‘liker’ somewhere.
Publishing is important for progress.
Courses can help. ‘How to’ manuals and articles are great. Professional editing is invaluable, but reading, writing, and self-reflection on that process is the best way to improve. At least that’s the best way I’ll improve, and part of that process includes me hitting that big-red button.
The story remains the same.
So . . .
Drop me a line and let me know what you would change in the opening paragraphs. I’d be interested to see if we agree. (I promise I don’t bite.)
And on that note a huge thanks to all the authors who have contributed to Glimpse, and especially to those who worked behind the scenes to put it together: Hayley Lawson, Michelle Lowery, Debbie Cassidy, Sarah Dalton, Christine Royce Niles & apologies to anyone I’ve forgotten!