As a newbie to writing, and related editing and publishing processes, I recently experienced an eye-opening, roller coaster ride of a learning curve as the Ascribe writers prepared a collection of short stories with plans to publish.
It was an ambitious project. Several group members served as editors, for each other and for the rest of us, in order to ensure our work was the best it could be. Each story was reviewed by four editors. In our scramble to meet deadlines, we created quite the log-jam at the end, making for extremely short turn-around times for writing changes and submitting stories to the next editor.
My experience of the process was that of repeating cycles of agony and ecstasy; the difficulty of making sweeping changes to a story I thought was finished, the joy of completing edits, only to have the next editor suggest many more improvements. Words blurred and the impact of changes became imperceptible.
While completing the last edits, considerable panic set in, I’m embarrassed to admit. Suddenly-obvious discrepancies jumped out at me. I’d even used the same name for characters in both stories. And there was the marathon addition of many, many commas. It dawned on me that no one would be editing the changes I was making at this point. No more safety net.
The editors provided technical excellence and creative insights, noted incongruities and questioned and challenged me. They inspired me to take or leave their suggestions and to trust making the story my own. The final versions of the stories are unrecognizable from my first attempts; they are so much better. For their work and careful consideration, my editing colleagues have my immense gratitude.
There were a few past-the-final-deadline tweaks to the stories that added clarity, and would have haunted me forever if not included. I was prepared to beg if necessary but happily it didn’t come to that and the changes were accepted. I’m still working on knowing when a story is finished and when it may be time to start something new.
This was an incredibly valuable experience for me. Snippets of knowledge have moved from theory to practice. I’m pulling a thread that could start to unravel the mysteries of writing well.
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