A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire...
In Apology to the Editors Who Got it Before it was Done
I love to rewrite. I love to get to the end of that damn rough draft and rub it and polish it and buff it all shiny and clean and lovely and it is just so satisfying. I love to kill my darlings, to delete out huge, gorgeous chunks of text like ripping off an old sticky Band Aid—fast and without mercy, unsaved in any clipboard or backup document, no going back now. I love to nitpick words and phrases, slice out adverbs like little malignant tumors. Savage. Editing is savage and bloody and brilliant.
Of course, the problem here is that in loving the process so much, I'm loath to let it go. I can't stop poking at it. It never gets finished, because, really, it never is finished. There's always something else, some tightening or trimming, some transition to be smoothed, some word that is not quite right. Perfectionism rears its beasty head and I am no longer editing, just obsessing. It stops being fun.
This is where I check myself. When the text tastes dry in my mouth and my head aches at the thought of reading the damn thing one more time "just in case" (but I do), and I'm moving commas around and replacing m-dashes with periods and then switching them back again—I take a deep, healing breath and send my still-ugly baby out into the world.
More often than not, it's rejected—sometimes with a nice note, sometimes with a form letter, but it's that big NOPE that we all hate to find in our email inbox: "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read [title here], but it does not meet our editorial needs at this time."
Here's the good bit, though, and there is a good bit.
Now I get to see my writing with brand-new eyes, which sounds stupid and trite but is so very true. The work has been out of my hands and head for weeks (or months), and when it comes back I'm a little different than I was when I let it go, or, at the very least, no longer on poised to burn my eyes out with a hot poker every time I look at it. I can see the places where the tissue is thin, where the word is wrong, where I should have let something go, or shouldn't have. So, I do the edits and send it out again.
And sometimes again. And again. Because I am stubborn. Because I have faith in my work. Because I neglect my housework and my child and my husband to do this writing thing, so I'd best make the time spent worth it. And usually be the third or fourth time I've repeated the process I get the email I wanted all along: "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read [title here], we would love to publish it."
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