I used to believe if the story was short the editing process would be a breeze – fewer words, fewer drafts. Many rejections later, I came to understand the revision process for a work of very short fiction should be just as involved and demanding as the revision process for a much longer fiction piece.
Very short fiction can’t overcome awkward phrasings, careless repetitions, flimsy word choices. There just isn’t enough soil to bury an error, whether large or small.
Good editing is about varying approaches and assuming different perspectives.
Read your work in different ways: silently, mouthing the words, pronouncing each syllable, out loud, a little louder, now just a tiny bit louder than that.
Read your work at different times during the day: first thing in the morning when you’re still shaking off the sleep, after a seventh cup of coffee, late at night when you can barely keep your eyes open.
Read your work as another person: pretend you’re someone who hasn’t read a lick of fiction since high school, an angry New York editor with a fat cigar and “REJECTION” stamp, dabbed in red ink, hovering inches above the page.
Edit in different fonts and font sizes. Single-spaced, double-spaced, triple-spaced.
Export to PDF and let that creepy robot read to you (also – a quick side note – it’s a lot of fun to feed the creepy robot dirty words)
Put on Track Changes. Sometimes it will push you to take bigger risks, rewrite more freely, since it’s so easy to revert back to the original.
When you have the story memorized, can recite it back verbatim, without a mistake, forwards and backwards, standing on your head, then it’s probably all right to start these steps over again.
Bio: Ravi Mangla lives in Fairport, NY. His very short fiction has appeared online at Sleepingfish, MonkeyBicycle, FRiGG, elimae, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and elsewhere. He interviews writers at his blog, Recommended Reading.
Read "Jupiter" in Wigleaf
Read "Sparkle" in Hobart