Honouring the Work


For me, the feeling just after editing a book of short stories is very much like having been at a really big, all-night party. The next morning—once I’ve sent those edits off to the editor—my head is full of vague memories of talking to dozens of people, and I’m worried that I said something out of line, got too personal, threw insults, acted like an idiot, or even worse, didn’t say anything of value at all.

I’ve just spent two weeks editing my forthcoming collection of stories, living with a bunch of characters and scenarios I created but can’t always control. Except I’ve had to control them now. First draft dream time is finito.

I’m not the first to say this, but there seem to be two different kinds of writers when it comes to crafting the work. One loves the first draft, the creation, the “anything goes” period where you just open up your brain and pour its highly variable content out. The other kind is the editing kind, the writers who love going over every word—over and over again. Don’t get me wrong: both have their own level of satisfaction, their highs and lows. But give me a first draft any day!!

While editing, at least on good days, the story becomes a sort of garden. I need to make a little space where new things can grow. Then I push those darned seedlings into that soil and throw water, fertilizer and sun upon them and so help me, they better grow, and fast!

Pressure of this kind doesn’t always work. Introducing new ideas into a story line requires time passing to work, otherwise they can feel plopped in—planted where they are out of place, like a wilting geranium in the middle of the pumpkin patch.

Luckily, I’ve sent them off: my stories are back in the hands of my astute editor, and I’ll have another chance at refining them before they become final versions, bound for binding. What a gift, to have people working on behalf of my words. I’m so grateful for my publisher and the team who works with her.

The phrase “honouring the work” keeps coming out in conversations lately, and that’s the best way to describe this phase of publishing a book. It can be a challenge to revise, to see the problems in a manuscript, to cut beautiful paragraphs that just don’t fit; to even, sometimes, leave whole stories out. But ego needs to be put aside. It’s time to honour the work.

And now that the post-editing “hangover” is over, time for some first drafts. Or wait, there’s a novel waiting to be edited…