The Art of Distance


So, many of you know that I submitted a novel-in-stories to a contest about 2 years ago and haven’t really touched it since. I let not winning or placing in the contest really knock me for a loop. Turns out that’s the best thing I could’ve done.

After letting it sit there for about eighteen months, I finally took it out again. What a difference those eighteen months made. It was like I was reading it for the first time. I even forgot how some of the stories ended. I teared up at some of them as if i hadn’t written them myself.

With fresh eyes, it was like a flashlight shined upon all the parts that needed revising. Cut those first 2 pages of that story, tweak the ending of that one, re-write the ending of that one. Misspellings, grammatical errors, clunky sentences, unneeded scenes—all of this was suddenly glaringly obvious and I cringed to think that I had submitted the older version. But, I did the best I could at the time. Now that I could see better, I was doing better.

Some things I learned through this revision process:

– Distance is key. Would I recommend eighteen months? Not necessarily. I recommend all the time it takes to almost forget what you had written so when you read it again it’s like somebody else wrote it.

– I have certain pet words and phrases like: “murky” and “clot.” I learned to catch these repeat offenders.

– Don’t be afraid to cut words, sentences, paragraphs and even pages if necessary.

– I need to revise on paper. I love having the pages stacked or sprawled in front of me, pen in hand.

– With distance, it was easier to spot places where I needed to go deeper and add a beat or another layer.

– While revision can be a very linear process with regard to spelling, grammar, mostly it was a very intuitive process. A process I learned to trust.

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