The process of becoming aware of your writing style, and more importantly, your mistakes, can take a while. Like poker players with tells, errors and odd phrasing, or word tics, can follow any wordsmith through their works. I have fall back phrases, and repeated words I make the effort to eliminate, even if I have to hit find and replace in Word documents. When I focus on them they become particularly apparent and I mean words like think and yet. It’s not like I’m repeating highfalutin’ vocabulary, the like of which Judith Butler would be proud.
Other issues for me include, but aren’t limited to: unwieldy sentence structures that end up being back to front; tense fluctuations; paragraphing; and, occasional grammar issues. For instance, the first draft of my Honours’s thesis, dated from last century, didn’t have paragraphs. I know right? But at least the quotes were hand written on coloured paper and pasted onto the page. Since then, I have somewhat developed. Now mistakes mostly crop up in early drafts when I’m writing tired, but some manage to elude me and sneak through into later drafts and final copies. I found it’s true that reading is not the same as seeing.
Much of my focus goes to the story, then its structure, then the bricks and mortar of the writing and grammar, but not always in that order. When issues stand out its best for me to deal with them then and there, but that doesn’t negate a proper line by line edit later. A lot of people advise against editing as you go. I can see why, but if something bugs me enough to prevent the writing, it is worth correcting. Reading work aloud helps. Printing stories out old-school can aid the editing process as well.
Any editorial advice is precious, even if I disagree with it, because it indicates more can be done. Although, to be fair, I’m of a mind to think there’s always more to be done with writing.
Thus, each and every rejected story gets looked at again, even if the rejection was positive (as in a story wasn’t published because it didn’t fit an editorial theme, rather than it was badly written). Sometimes rejected stories are rewritten for different types of market, or in terms of new themes or genres, or made briefer, or extended. Basically, whatever it takes to fit the next publication opportunity.
One story can go through many incarnations. A story being published next week was written and edited and sent out once, rejected, edited lightly, with a slightly different title and then accepted. My last published story was only accepted on the fifth submission, which means all sorts of major edits and rewrites over the course of several years. Thus, if it seems I haven’t had a lot published, it is not for wont of writing, nor lack of opportunity. But the work and the publication have to be congruent and the submission timing needs be right, for the magic to happen. The rest is about making the work better by knowing myself.