You can never experience your own writing in the same way readers can. Writers know their own story, are often unaware of their usual or unusual foibles, and read what they want imagined, not what they put on the page. So they see the wood for the trees. Unless you write something and completely forget it through some catastrophic neurological condition.
But right now I am the closest I have ever got to this feeling of newness and unfamiliarity. I am reading something I completed in 2014. Since then I have edited it, added to it, changed the introduction, and sent it hither and thither in the hope of publication.
It never got anywhere.
I set it aside.
Let it stew in its own juices.
The other day I opened this resting file, copied it over to a new document, and turned up the heat.
Line by line, chapter by chapter. I am reading it and reworking it. For the first time I am seeing mistakes that would have been there from the start. There are missing words, wrong words or words in the wrong tense, as well as weird word salad sentences after many hurried edits. In some places too much is missing after editing it down to fit other people’s needs, while in other areas, it is over written. I like starts and endings. The weird squiggly stuff of story in the middle is tangled, and not meaty enough.
I think I can make this story better. I have begun to:
- Delete descriptions of feelings.
- Show emotions through interactions with concrete items.
- Make sentences shorter.
- Make the introduction a more direct link to the last chapter.
- Ratchet up the tension.
- Make the ending more consequential.
- Add to the action and interactions.
- Increase references to specific times, places and people.
- Since it is already a self-reflexive story, I have dialled this up. I may use this as a framing device if I add another layer to it. A story within a story about a story.
I’m not saying this process will get this thing closer to published, but it can’t hurt to try. At the very least it is good practice and this poor neglected manuscript is not complaining.