One of the most gratifying parts of writing short fiction happens during the editing phase. You’ve laid out five, six thousand words, and something resembling a story is now on paper. That’s the fun part, because it’s all about creativity. Visual descriptions, bantering dialog, watching characters grow. An entire world begins to develop and you can lose yourself exploring around. It’s the best part of being a writer.
Many people abhor the editing part, but for me that’s just as much fun. I wrote the first draft of The Gift in one day. Truth be told, I wrote it, all 5,200 words, in about 10 hours. It was one of those stories that had been cooking in my head for years and, for whatever reason, it demanded to finally be written, right there, right then. So I gave Dom and Max the day off, opened up a new doc and let the story tell itself.
The next morning, I reread what I had written and decided a lot of it that was very good. Remarkable for a first draft. But, as usual, there were some parts that needed a little trimming, and others that had to be trashed outright. The premise was too obvious, too over-the-top, and too cheap. I was checking far too many cliche boxes and that turned a potentially great story into a predictable, “meh” story. It had been a blast to write, but reading it objectively was far more enlightening. I could have scrapped the idea and went back to my other friends in The Push. But that would have been missing one of the greatest opportunities being a writer can give. Instead, I went back to the story and put on the proverbial editor’s hat. Not to fix technical issues, but rather to write the story as it was always meant to be told. What you read now is what The Gift was always destined to become. It’s a far better story than what came out during the first draft, and editing allowed me to let that happen.
Editing isn’t just about fixing spelling and grammar. Editing is taking a cold, hard look at your work and deciding what needs to stay and, more importantly, what needs to go. That’s a special power to have. Imagine if you could edit all of the mistakes you’ve made over the course of your life. Think of the possibilities! Instead of breaking up with a girl you should have stayed with, you go back and make it so the relationship worked. (Or vice versa!) You do the right thing and call a cab from the bar instead of getting in the car. You study harder in school. You pursue your dream job instead of a more practical one. Or, in my case, you take writing more seriously when you’re younger instead of putting it off for twenty years.
In life, it can be said that you’re only where you are today because of both the good and bad decisions you’ve made in the past. It’s our mistakes that make us who we are, regardless of the consequences. But fiction isn’t real life (thank goodness!), and therefore is afforded the luxury of fixing things in hindsight. I’ve found I have to lay out all of the mistakes on paper first, and only then is there something to fix. Having that power over the little worlds I create is something magical.