It’s been a while since I polished a piece of fiction with a deadline in mind. An anthology I’d love to be in has a call for submissions posted and I decided to go for it even though I barely had six weeks to write, edit, and submit. It’s going pretty well so far, probably because the story features two characters I’ve known for some time. The story is new, but it’s also familiar so that’s been fun. I’ll call the WIP CS for Christmas Story. Mostly because I’m superstitious and don’t want to jinx anything or see the title so much it gets old and I start tinkering with it. It’s a great title, but until a piece is finished it always feels a little fragile. Not fragile in the sense that it could be damaged by too much work, but it could definitely be damaged by the wrong kind of attention (mainly me talking it to death).
I’m much better at turning off my Inner Editor than I am working with it but I’ve developed some strategies that make things a lot easier. I can’t take credit for any of these techniques, so a huge thank-you goes out to all the authors of books on the craft of writing that I’ve ever read. Eventually I’ll have to write a post citing all of them (that I can remember), but not today.
On the practical side, once I have a full electronic draft with a beginning, middle and end, I print it out. I know, it’s archaic, but so am I. Before I print I’ll remove all formatting to make it easier to change the font (type and size), spacing to 1.5, and paragraph format (indenting? Those change to hard returns).
Once that’s done I’ll start making passes through the manuscript. CS has two POV characters, so I made one pass concentrating on POV in each section. This was followed by a pass for passive voice. Before I call it finished I’ll also make a two more passes, one for each POV character, reading only his sections. This helps a lot with voice.
This seems like a strange thing to list, but I only mark the pages with pen. It’s tempting to use a pencil, or at least an erasable something, but even if I don’t use all the scribbles it’s better to leave gut reactions on the page to evaluate later. Later being the key word here.
Now the manuscript is sitting until tomorrow while I make dinner and go to a reading. Spending an hour or two concentrating on someone else’s writing should help mine. Even if it doesn’t, it’ll help at least one of the authors because I’m planning on buying at least one book. At any rate, in the case of editing distance is bliss. If I had more time I’d let it sit for two or three days, but so far I’m enjoying the pressure to finish it in time.