I mentioned a while back that I had a story accepted for an upcoming anthology. So far, so good. Then the editor sent to all the contributors her comments and suggestions for improvements, fixes and edits. I was pleased that she only had three minor issues with my manuscript. It should have been simple and quick to address them. But it wasn’t. What should have taken a few days, even hours, took weeks. Why was it so hard? When the coordinator sent around reminders for the deadline for the edits, some of the other contributors sent group emails saying things like “oh, I did them right away and sent them right back.” What did they know that I didn’t? Okay, a couple of them were far more accomplished writers than I am, so maybe because of their greater experience it was easier for them. But, still, it seemed like I was having more trouble than I should have. I finally got them done, and several days before the deadline. But what could I learn to make it smoother next time? One thing I realized was that I had worked long and hard on this story. I had worked so hard, made everything as perfect as I could. I had had critiques and beta readers. Had done revision after revision. I had gotten the story as perfect as I could make it. Therefore, when I saw the editors suggestions, it was hard for me to see how the story could possibly be made better. It was already as perfect as I was capable of making it. So, for the first few days, I gave up. But of course, I couldn’t let that situation stand. Another thing: I had lived with the story for so long, every word seemed firmly stuck in place. I had a hard time seeing the words any other way. They were frozen in my consciousness just the way they were. It was like they existed already in some eternal universe of fiction, never to be changed. The third issue, and by far the hardest to conquer, was that once given the chance, the temptation to make a boatload of other changes–meaning what I thought were “improvements,” was hard to resist. This sounds like it contradicts what I said earlier about the story seeming perfect. But what I was now looking at were changes that I wanted, not ones the editor had requested. However, I feared that in making those changes, I would only open myself up to more negative feedback from the editor. So I resisted the urge.
Finally I was able to buckle down. I picked what I thought was the easiest thing to fix. Turned out it wasn’t, but I had to start somewhere. One item turned out to be easier than I thought. I realized I could just delete the offending sentence, without any loss of meaning. After the three changes were made, naturally, I re-read the whole piece obsessively, before sending it off. It was a relief. Also, I do believe that the exercise will help me become a better editor, whether on my own, or in response to change requests from other editors in the future. I read a quote recently that applies. “Progress is in the pursuit.” Yep.