So, I’m writing a book. Well, no, actually I’m compiling a collection of short stories to make into a book. It’s a whole new world of terror, my friend.
I’ll probably be able to blog endlessly about this heroic journey, but today I’m going to tell you about the first of the terrors: my first editorial meeting. It’s held, as I’m sure a great many small press editorial meetings are held, in a coffee shop. My editors who I will call Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg had already read through the twenty or so stories I planned to include in the collection and were there to give me their initial thoughts.
Now, I’m no stranger to critique: I’ve had well-meaning friends tell me nothing happened in my stories, but that they didn’t know how to fix them; I’ve had pages and pages of edits emailed to me by shadowy internet beta readers; I’ve been a member of Renegade Writers for almost two years, and believe me, those guys don’t mess around! But, until now I hadn’t ever been faced with the tough love of a pair of editors, and it is tough, let me tell you. A combination of uncomfortable school open evenings, job interview feedback sessions, that moment someone tells you you’ve been walking around with your skirt tucked in your knickers; the oh god, find me a shovel and help me dig embarrassment of learning that the boy you’ve been unsubtly throwing yourself at just isn’t that into you…
I came home, curled up on the sofa and wailed ‘I’m a hack! I’m never writing again, take this pen off me now!’ at anyone who’d listen. Fortunately, no one did and so I’m now working slowly through my homework- my list of editing tasks:
Story 1 finishes too abruptly
And so does Story 2
And Story 3.
Story 4 is crap, so bin it.
The logic of story 5 makes no sense.
There wasn’t enough texture to Story 6
Or enough conflict in Story 7.
On the face of it, fixing all of this is pretty daunting. But then, as I work, I’m starting to realise, the stories in need of the most work are the earlier ones, the ones I’ve never really looked at after that initial draft, never edited properly myself or brought to the writing group. Actually, when I look at it objectively (or as objectively as I’m able when it’s my babies being criticised, damn it!), once I’ve got past the personal sense of embarrassment at getting something wrong, that editors meeting was not like looking in a mirror: I don’t always like what I see, but overall, it’s nothing a bit of work won’t fix, nothing I can’t live with. Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg were just facets of my own good sense telling me what I already knew but didn’t want to face. Everyone should have a set.
(Originally published September 2015)