One of the great things for me about the In fabula-divinos project is how having to explain things to the other writers is clarifying things in my mind. For example, I’ve got such a clearer view now on the importance of spending time in deep worldbuilding for your short story, even if you’re not going to use what you’ve created.
The issue that working with Tony on his copyedits has clarified for me is the importance of doing multiple rounds of edits. It’s easy to think you’re looking so deeply at a story in your editing that you’re seeing everything, but the fact is you’re not. There’s elements that seem fine now, but once you’ve tweaked the weaknesses that are first evident, you realise that they are now a weakness too.
In Tony’s case, there was a particular scene that I didn’t have a problem with in the general round of edits. But once he’d made the changes and revised the story, on re-reading that scene became useless. It had some lovely imagery in it, but in terms of the pace of the story and revealing the action it did nothing. I didn’t notice before that it should go, but I definitely noticed it now.
One thing that Tony does really well is his imagery. I’m always very jealous of writers like he, because imagery is something that doesn’t come naturally to me. The great thing about cutting that scene is that it freed up wordage for him to delve into that imagery in creating a better setting and sense of character. He’s got some particularly beautiful phrases – my favourite is devoted to the office cleaner, Rosie. Tony describes her as ‘a septuagenarian boat caught in an existential whirlpool’. Beautiful on it’s own and killer in the context of the story.
So while we’ve cut a couple of scenes, at the end the story hasn’t got any shorter because that space has been used to put more colour and wonderful language in to build the tension and horror that is faced by the story’s hero.
Which you’ll be able to read when ‘Digging Out the Ribs of Gold’ is published on June 1.