Yesterday I finished the first draft of a short story. (Try to interrupt me as you will, Joanne, I still got it done.) It came in at about at 2000 words, which is typical for me. Today I did the first edit. Fifty-four changes. Not fifty-four words – fifty-four changes. I added “Not so much right now.” “Bill” became “Billy Boy.” Three words where added here. An entire sentence was removed there. I corrected tense. I made a meaningless change from “10:43 AM” to “11:43 AM”. There was a word I wanted to change but, for the life of me, I can’t spell the word I want to use. (After messing with it for five minutes, I left it as is was.)
You should have seen the paper. Scratch-outs all over. Arrows to insertions crossing into the margins. Numbers circled to indicate a note I’d written at the bottom of the page. If word allowed triple-spacing, I would use that for editing.
THAT type of editing I love. What I hate is the complete rewrite.
I have an eighty-five hundred word romantic adventure that I like and thought was ready to go. I passed it out to a critique group for a final polishing. What came back was devastating. I need to do a complete rewrite. (I say I “need to” because I agree with their comments. NOT just because they said so.)
I put a lot of work into the story. I spent hours doing research, making sure my facts and setting were true. I stepped waaaaayyyyyy out of my comfort zone to write the romantic parts. It hurt that everyone didn’t love it as much as I did. (They all like the story, just not the way it was written.)
The question becomes, will I make the necessary changes, or place it in that pile. The one for “It was nice knowing you, but I’m moving on. Have a nice life.”
The complete rewrite feels like I am saying to one of my children, “You’re not good enough. I’m going to replace you with someone better.” That, and I’d have to admit that all the work and sweat I poured into my story is, mostly, wasted.
If only I could look at as, "I can rebuild it. I have the technology. I have the capability to build the world's best short story. I can make it better than it was before. Better, stronger, more concise." I’d give six million dollars to be able to do that.
For now, it sits. I haven’t given up on it, I just need time to get my head in the right place to make the changes I know I have to make. So, I guess that story has become, “It’s just not working out. I need to see other stories. I hope we can remain friends. I’ll be in touch.”