When you read a story here on Trent’s World, you are usually reading an unedited first draft. Well, maybe not 100% unedited – I usually will take a quick read-through and correct the most obvious mistakes, but it is almost always a first draft. And you know what? I’m fine with that. This is not a literary magazine and most people reading the stories enjoy them. If I spent the time to get them all “publish ready”, I would have posted closer to 20 stories than 200.
I am bringing this up now because I am in the process of doing another read-through of the short stories that will be included in my short story collection.
After I decided on the stories, I went through them two times in pretty rapid order, making many changes as I went along. The first time through was full of major changes, some additions and some subtractions. The second run-through was aimed at making sure the stories still read well after the changes of the first. I called the end product of these two run-throughs a “second draft”. After the second draft I sat on the stories for a month and then did another read-through, making many more corrections, though few changes to the structure or story line of any given story. This was the third draft which I sent out to my beta-readers. Actually it should have been draft “two point five”, but I called it “three”.
I received responses from a handful of beta readers. One went into some nitty-gritty details about word misusage, grammar, etc. Others kept it to what they liked and didn’t like. Of course one problem with this is that a few people singled out stories that they hated which turned out to be the favorite of others. There is not a single story that had more than one person dislike and every strong dislike (hate) was balanced by a mention as a favorite. That being said, there was a lot of good feedback from all involved – even if someone else loved it, what was it about the story that the other hated? I tried to figure it out and see if I could make the story better.
After the beta-readers’ feedback was analyzed, I did two different edits. One was a more surface edit, correcting the little things that the one reader picked up (and others that I saw) while the other was a deeper edit. In fact, I rewrote a couple of stories, usually based on some of the feedback I received. After my initial big editing run, this one had the most changes and rewrites. I call the results the “fourth draft”.
I am now in the process of a fifth draft. I am almost done with a first run-though. I have changed some sentences and paragraphs, but mostly it has been corrections. I’ll do two more edits, the last being a slower, knit-picking check on word usage, grammar and other such things. I have a couple of people that can edit at this level, so I’ll send it to them after the fifth draft is complete. At that point it will be ready to publish, at least good enough to self-publish. (I know I can never recoup the costs of a professional on a book of short stories.)
Just a few comments. First, by the time I have completed the rewriting and editing process I will have spent at least ten times the amount of time and effort cleaning up the stories as actually writing them. Some of the stories have been changed considerably while others have just been shined up a little. Although I did major rewrites on some to make them read better, I rewrote a few to bring out some of the important themes. Sometimes this part, bringing out the themes, only involved adding a sentence or two to make it clearer, but occasionally it meant reordering and/or replacing large chunks of the original story, a rewrite from top to bottom.
If you have already read the stories in the collection I will put out, or at least the three quarters of the stories that have appeared on my blog, you may recognize them, but they will not be the same. You can’t just look at the story list, find them on the blog and read the blog version and think it is finished. By the time the book is out, a lot of the stories will be completely different. Of course comparing that first draft (on the blog) with the finished story (in the book) might prove interesting, but I’ll leave that up to another post.
Anyway, just a quick trip through the editing process these stories are going through. I hope you enjoyed!