Last night I sat down with a dusty ol' short story to submit to Elsie's site. I've already missed this month's deadline--where did April go? I'd unearthed the story before the 15th but I knew it wasn't ready, so I set it aside. Procrastination, thou art a wily beast.
I wrote this story many years ago, and it's always been dear to me; yet, I never submitted it anywhere because I knew it was erratic in tone. Unfortunately, whenever I sat at the computer to improve it, I'd finish reading with few edits and the lingering feeling that the piece was still caked in dirt, like broken pottery partially exposed at an excavation site.
Editing on the computer screen is a hit and miss technique for me, so I printed the five pages and grabbed a cherry red art pencil. I no longer quake at the sight of red on my paper. In fact, I was so satisfied that I reviewed the story three times, adding more red each time.
The problem with editing in bed is that I was pumped and had a hard time falling asleep! But I was so excited. Finally, I held all the beautiful pieces of pottery as a cohesive story. No more shards buried in dirt suggesting the shape of the vessel. My prose was clean because I removed the clinging words that distorted the image. My prose was whole because I discerned the shape and removed the excess bits.
Whether you kick it old school in cherry red, or use modern software, successful editing is always beautiful.