So, last week I wrote a post about why working with an editor is really the best.
Actually, it was more of a “here’s why working with an editor isn’t really as brutal as you think it is” post, but I digress.
One of the concerns I tried to address is the one I hear most often: “I don’t want an editor to change my story”. Given how prevalent this concern/pet peeve is, I thought I would give it a bit more air time by telling a story of my own experience that hopefully shows why it’s really not the worst thing in the world when an editor suggests major revisions to your work.
If you follow me with any degree of regularity you know that I published a short story last month called “The Witch’s Luck“. It was an entry for a Wattpad contest, and it was my first attempt at writing short fiction since university. My mission was to write a story inspired by an illustration in 2,500 words or less.
I wasted no time coming up with all of these grand, sweeping ideas. I instantly fell in love with my characters. I boiled it all down and even managed to come in under the word limit.
Now, I didn’t feel like the story was perfect but I was fond of the overall idea. I didn’t love the story, but I liked it enough to loop Athena in for editing, anticipating a quick turn-around that would see me tossing the story online by the end of the day.
What I got instead were a series of gentle suggestions that ultimately amounted to a virtual rewrite of the entire story. Keep the overall idea, she essentially said, but tell it differently.
I’m not going to lie to you, dear reader: I was devastated.
Even though it was less than 2,500 words, the idea of rewriting the story felt like a massive undertaking. I may not have loved everything I had written but the idea of scrapping all of that hard work was like a kick to the gut. I couldn’t figure out how to save it and make it better at the same time.
So, I walked away from it for a while. I forced myself to stop coming up with rebuttals to all of Athena’s suggestions (be honest: you do the same thing) and instead tried entertaining the idea of what the story might look like if I worked in her ideas. Just a little bit, y’know? For shits and giggles.
By the time I sat back down to edit, I was completely revitalized and inspired to make this story the best version of itself. I set aside my ego and rewrote what I’m guessing was about 70% of the original story. In doing so I was able to inject more magic and urgency into the plot, create a more believable relationship between the two main characters, give one of the main characters a better sense of purpose, provide a stronger backstory and still have it all come in at less than 2,500 words.
And you know what? I love the new version.
It was a shot to my ego and a bitch to rewrite, but I am so glad that I bit the bullet and did it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: not everything we write is solid gold.
This especially true of first drafts. In fact, if we’re being honest, a lot of first drafts are shit.
But good news! You don’t have to marry that shit; you just have to be open to the idea of making that shit better.
So, embrace those revisions and don’t write off rewrites just yet. Your story deserves a second chance!