Yesterday, I wrote the first draft of a story aimed for a forthcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul book. It has the right amount of words to satisfy the CS editors. There is dialogue sprinkled throughout, another one of the traits the CS editors like. I wrote to the theme of the book. I wrote in first person.
So far, so good, but the story lacked something crucial. It had no life, had no heart in it. Disgusted, I saved the draft in a file and moved on to something else. I knew that I had to let it simmer awhile before reading it again. Usually, I see the story from a different perspective when I do that. What seemed completely baffling the day I wrote the draft will most likely become more clear a day or two, or three later.
I've learned that it doesn't pay to beat myself over the head on the day I write that first draft. It will most likely end up with me being frustrated and angry with myself and a story that is no better than on the first writing.
It pays to edit at a later time. How much later doesn't matter. The important thing is to let the story sit before you attempt your revisions and editing. As the poster tells us, editing is the right thing to do. Not only right--it's crucial!
But what happens when you stare at the first draft for an exceedingly long period of time and you're still in the dark as to what to do to make the story better? Go ahead and stare for as long as you like, be like the person in the poster below. There are times when 70% of your ediitng process is staring at your work. The hope is that you'll suddenly see the way out of the dark tunnel and your fingers will fly over the keyboard making the needed changes. Does it always happen? No, but it will work a good deal of the time.
My next job today is to stare at that draft I wrote yesterday. I hope that I'll see the places where I can add or change to make my story better. I want to make it one that I can send to my critique group to get some objective eyes on it. Then, I'll make further revisions and send the story to the Chicken Soup editors for the final judgement.
How about you? What's your editing process? Have you found a magic formula for editing that turns your stories into publishable pieces? If so, let us know your method.