11 August 2016

back off!

i've been absent a few days because i've been dusting off manuscripts and preparing for a couple of projects. yesterday, while doing so, i started to comb through a short story i'd written a while back, just to make sure it was perfect. i mean, i figured it was perfect, because i'd submitted it for publication some time ago, although it was [sob!] rejected.

this is when i had one of the most horrifying experiences a writer can have. it wasn't perfect at all. it wasn't even a little bit perfect. in fact, it was so un-perfect that pieces of it were difficult to follow if you didn't live in my brain, which few people do and none of them are publishers. i gnashed my teeth and wondered what the hell i was thinking and committed myself, once again, to a rule i try to stick by, but occasionally forget:

never submit anything that has only recently been completed.

i have this rule because, when i'm excited to have finished something, i usually want to find somewhere to send it right away. my best option would be to just send it to an unwitting friend and wait for them to get back to me to explain the parts that confused or irritated them, but sometimes, i'll get a big head and fire it off to a publisher because damn i'm good. and i might be good. but i'm almost never good enough when i finish something and then give it a couple of quick edits [as a brief perusal of this blog will surely reveal, since most of the posts here are "raw"].

when i'm still in that "i finished something and i am as a god" phase of self-delusion, reading through a piece is tricky. all the ideas are basically still flowing, so it's never a problem for me to make sense of what i'm saying. what i really need to do is step away from the manuscript and wait until the inspiration gets a little fuzzy. that's when i'll be able to notice things like "this sentence has no verb". or when i'll realise that my cutesy/ radical phrasing reads as semi-literate for someone who isn't already well-known for her daring style. [before you can make a habit of breaking all the rules, you do have to convince people that you understand them to begin with.]

so i spent much of last night and this morning weeding through the story and being a little scared of it, because it had so cleverly hidden its faults from me before. this is the long-term effect of editing failures: you start to doubt that you will ever be able to find all the problems and that there are always disasters hidden in your words. i'm getting anxious just thinking about all the embarrassing mistakes that are currently lurking on my computer, snickering as they play hide and seek with my over-eager eyes. damn those tricky word-fairies and their tortuous games!

so, to the editor who had to read my deeply flawed submission and who rightly rejected it, i apologise. you've probably forgotten about it amid heaps of word-fairy-tainted manuscripts you received before and since. i hang my head in shame before you.

and if you're reading this, i'm sure you've already noticed mistakes. but this is my messy space, and it always will be. i thank you for persevering with me anyway.

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