Logo for the odd fiction online lit mag Churn Thy Butter
I’ve been trying to work out a formula for what good writing is. Here it goes:
1. Writing anything at all no matter how terrible (also known as BIC or Butt-in-chair time).
2. Restraining oneself from that piece of writing for a week at least.
3. Returning to that piece of writing and improving it.
(And repeat as many times as necessary)
I’d say my biggest struggle is with #1: Lately I’ve been editing six pieces on and off while writing none! I could make up a lot of excuses, some of which would appear valid, but it all comes down to fear. I get a lot of fine ideas, but what if I don’t get it down on paper the exact way I want? Well that’s what editing is for, I have to remind myself. Don’t have an idea: Freewrite freewrite freewrite.
#2 is difficult at times, but I try to edit other pieces. I even have a two week countdown to when I’m allowed to edit a piece. It’s important to get a distance from a piece I’ve been so close to.
#3 is my favorite. What I do to edit is first to get out my sentence variety chart. All it is:
-first word in sentence
-active verb in sentence (or all verbs if you want)
-words in sentence
These three tiny details end up making a huge difference in my writing.
Next I get my voice recorder out and read the piece aloud. I listen to my own voice (is that really what I sound like?) and hear the rhythms of the piece. You don’t need a voice recorder to hear it aloud, but I think it makes the process a whole lot easier.
I ask questions about my characters. I ask them the questions and have them answer. I ask what the purpose and themes of the piece is and how I can evoke that meaning. I ask what I could research into to make it more real and I do that research.
I repeat this editing of one piece multiple times a day until I’m exhausted or else satisfied. I wait two weeks and see if it’s ready to be submitted.
My editing process is imperfect: What do you all do to edit your pieces?
Why I’ve been gone is mostly due to college which is wonderful and busy. I took a great poetry class as well as theatre and a computer science course that I withdrew from. Way too difficult, that one. Next term I’m taking a beginning fiction class AND a beginning poetry class, so I’ll have a lot to write and a lot to write about here. Also happened for me are a music theory class and cello lessons!
I’ve mentioned this before, but I enjoy saying too much that I’m editor-in-chief of Churn Thy Butter, a quarterly online literary magazine with a focus on odd fiction and poetry. We have many submissions but could use many more! It’s tons of hard work, but tons of fun. I’ll be sure to keep you readers posted.
Again I’ll ask my editing question: What do you all do to edit your pieces?