I am currently in the process of reading through twenty-one of my short story manuscripts, following my reader’s track-change suggestions. As Suzanne is very good at her work, I mostly click ‘approve’, and keep scrolling for the next comment. I always re-read the work after this initial browse, in case I find any small thing I think will improve the flow, or a word which now seems inappropriate. Why would you change anything at this stage, you might be thinking? Well, it is because these stories span ten years of writing, and some of those early ones may still require more ‘tightening’.
I guess, I wrote differently ten years ago; probably using more passive voice than necessary. I have learned a good deal about creating lively writing over the years, and that means using the active voice more often. It means also, while re-reading, I am looking to see if my words are actually moving the story forward. I may have used too much description or too much exposition, for example. So, this means, I keep reading and re-reading my work. To stave off the boredom, I let the stories rest after my ‘fiddling’ and return to them with a fresh eye a few days or so down the tracks. Long walks are a must for me too, as it gives me time to enjoy the outdoors, and stop any brooding.
I may also pass a particular story to a selected reader, if I have removed a chunk of the original, and wish to know if that has helped the story. It is necessary to maintain the pace, and the fluidity of the writing, and a reader can pick up any consistencies. It is always a good idea to read your work aloud too, as this will help you see any problems with the pace, or dialogue, when you recognise that something’s-not-quite-right moment. But, how do you keep boredom from the door, when you need to return to the same material over and over? An important thing is to feel happy with what you write. Each story should feel authentic; the language used needs to fit that particular work. It is absolutely essential that you like your stories, and not just a particular character, though that does help. But you need to like the idea, the action, setting, and arc, all of which should bring you to a satisfying denouement. The whole nine yards!
All of the above, gets easier the more you write. Do you remember when you produced your first stories, and loved what you had produced? And then others wished to read read them? – your babies, your precious babies. But send them out into the wider world you must, and eventually your nervousness will ease, until you feel comfortable having others comment on your stories. You may have read my blogs regarding critique groups, and I still remain in favour of using such a group to expose your writing and gain responses to your work. I continue to meet once a month with a group of women who are also passionate about the written word. We have got past the nervousness of having our writing critiqued, and that is because we have learned to do that in a friendly, and non-threatening way.
For now, I am waiting for Suzanne to send me the final cluster of stories, when I shall go through them all again.