The sea turtle, box turtles and large land turtles take their time getting somewhere, but they choose different paths, have a hard shell and get where they’re going.
The fox watches, waits and listens. Those are essential to editing. When you think you’re ready to send a piece out, step back into the grass and hear your story read out loud again.
Turtles are born with hard shells.
Most writers are not.
With time you build one. If not, you quit. Sure, there are still critiques that hurt to hear, but we need them said.
I need them said.
Turtles also move slow to get where they’re going.
Every writer, journalist and author sets out on a different path. Many writers have deadlines. I lived by deadlines at one time, and now I set them for creative work.
That does not mean you look for the short cuts.
Today, I smiled when I completed writing my longest story to date, 22 pages, When Tomorrow Comes. I began writing the story sometime between July and October 2011.
You say: Come on, Rebecca, it’s 2013 and that’s only twenty-two pages.
I say: Yeah, but it took a long time to figure out where the story was heading.
I knew I had a story about a mother who lost her husband and job as a financial advisor in the city. She lost her house, and her popular teenage daughter lost her prominent place at a private school. She attended a public school with a two-star rating online.
Those ideas took time to develop and unfold. Only in the last five months has the story really molded into what I wanted, and I’ve enjoyed writing it.
Sometimes I like to slow down and read over the last couple of paragraphs before I write again. Scientists do not want to mess up formulas and most that I’ve observed – on television – pour their solutions slowly into another container.
If the words invite you dance, then let them lead. Take slow steps. Watch the words pour on the page.
When I completed my story today, I felt happy. I have written many stories I am not happy with or were for the pure purpose of self-help during tough times. I never planned to use them for anything.
As I wrote back and forth between Catherine, the mom, and Tara, the daughter, I could not stop.
I must admit the story is not a first draft. It’s more like a sixth because I’ve edited it many times before I began writing the next section. Yes, I edit stories before I complete them, but every author is different. I do the same with my Elliot McSwean stories.
In my approach to editing, I look like a fox.
Read through one paragraph or page at a time. Soak it in. Take in the scene.
Poke your ears up.
Listen. Read your work out loud. Then listen to someone else or a computer voice read it back to you. I use both of these techniques, which have helped me improve my self-editing.
Have you watched an Arctic fox sneak up on a rabbit? A good hunter approaches its prey that never hears it coming.
Be that way in your editing.
As proud as I am of the fact I completed writing my story today, I know I will go back and slash out words and dialogue that just does not work.
If you’re good, those unnecessary words and accidental punctuation won’t hear your backspace or return button go click-click-gone.
By Rebecca T. Dickinson
Thank you again to all of my readers who have stuck with me even though I haven’t stuck to my schedule. My mom is doing better and she is out of the hospital.