Self-editing my short story

Today I want to talk about editing because it is not one of my strong points, and I assumed editing was all grammar focused. Once I eliminated that idea, I began to enjoy the process. After all, I can outsource the proof and line edit to someone good at that job.

One of the stories I have been working on is a piece called Transformation. And I want to go through that story and its editing process to this point.

‘Transformation’ began as one story in a project I initiated, where I wrote a stream of consciousness daily for a month. I had a benchmark of approximately 500 words per day and often went over.

In the end, I wrote just under 20,000 words. Great! Yes and no, I ended up with roughly twenty-five unstructured, unfinished story ideas, and because I was not fond of editing, they languished in a folder on my desktop for nearly three years.

And that is only one section of my unfinished writing – I have notes and drafts of theatre plays, novels, and collections of short stories, all unfinished.

If only I had embraced the story edit, stopped looking at the grammar or incorrect tenses, and realised that is how first drafts appear. My stories are a clump of ideas in words on a page, with maybe a spark buried.

Another challenge I had to overcome was finishing the complete story in my head. I’d go through everything superficially and then become bored with the idea. I’d pin it and move on to the next one.

All of this led to me being incredibly frustrated. I was writing and creating, but did I have one piece finished? NO

By the end of June this year, I was sick of talking, complaining and not doing. I made a plan to complete one piece at a time. To do this, I created a list of daily projects to work on, meaning I knew what I was doing each day and would not allow myself to be distracted.

I had a list of different categories to write in for July, and if by the end of the month, I had still avoided writing (by this, I mean editing and completing), I would quit.

Thankfully, I stuck to the plan and finally launched this website.

Following on, I am focusing on the stories I have been editing, Transformation in particular. I have posted three draft versions of the story below.

So what have I learned as I worked through the drafts?

My 1st draft has multiple stories in it. The introduction was engaging. So I decided to focus on that.

The next question I asked was who the story’s POV belongs to.

I realised I had no clue. I had a feeling, and I could see the faint shadow of the character sitting tucked away in the back of my mind.

I extracted the first page from draft one and worked solely on it. Only then did the main character begin to appear.

She is an Irish Sidhe and an Eternal. The story focuses on an Eternal who has spent seventy years as a mortal human. We meet her on the morning or her Transformation from a mortal to an Eternal.

Between the first and second drafts, I focused on this idea and eliminated anything that didn’t support it.

Then between drafts two to three, I wanted to tighten up the main focus of the short story. I realised I was repeating elements in the story in different ways but not moving the story forward.

The main story points in the third draft are –

  • Introduce Sidhe/Eternal.
  • Introduce the main character (first person POV) and what is happening to her.
  • She is seventy years old, and she must undergo theTransformation.
  • She is thinking about and understanding the process she must go through.
  • Even though she has done it before, she is fearful.
  • She accepts the fear and releases it.
  • She goes through her Transformation.
  • It is the destiny of the Sidhe.

Now I am on draft four. I can see how editing the story works with my creative process and how I create characters.

And I am starting to like and look forward to editing. It is the first time I have seen how my story grows, from imagination to words on a page and back to dreaming, then logic and back to words again.

I never thought I’d say this, but I like the editing process.

 

 

 

Transformation short story - three drafts
Draft 1

2006 words – as is with no edit 

I have stood in time for a century at this moment and today it ends and begins, through wars of the nations to no nations, for thirty years I have sat deaf, blind and still. On the day of my birth seventy years later I stopped to wait. Waiting and watching to learn what was needed to take me to now, and faster it all became, faster and faster still.

On the beach that day I lifted a stone, the same as I has done every day for a year, same place, same time, a different stone each day, a way to remind myself of what had gone and what was yet to come, a way to understand how it could all be the same but different, a day older, a day younger simultaneously moving forward and backwards.

The day of my seventy birthday I swam with the jellyfish, there was an incredible bloom that morning, the water, for what could be seen of it was turquoise, bordered by gold and grey jagged edged rocks that formed a natural pool in their centre. The only way in or out was through a nautilus shell shaped rock structure that led to a centre point where I always dived in.

As the bloom swarmed to the point of my entry in to the ocean, I could feel the pang of loss, a sequence of events had to happen, I was part of the whole, and it was part of my destiny. But at the moment of my first transformation I was afraid deep down to my core. I loved life, my life as it was and had been, but for it to continue I had to change, become silent, an observer in my otherwise active life.

With no one to talk to, no one to question if this path was the way, my trust and conviction shattered into a million pieces, out numbering the grains of sand on the beach. I lay down, unwilling to go forward, it could all end with me here and how, what would it matter what lay in the future. The future was not my burden to bear, rolling in the sand and curling into a foetus I sobbed, first quiet tears, ones that drop from your eyes when you are afraid to show any expression of how you feel, deep emotions hidden. Then sobs that emanate from the centre of your being, raising in waves and tensing your whole body fixing it into an explosive rigor mortis position before forcible evicting all emotion from your shell leaving behind a lightness for just a single moment.

That moment was all I needed, steadily I walked to my dive point, looked into the bloom of jellyfish and dove in.

From that point my transformation moved quickly, initially my body stung, tentacles wrapped around my limbs, I made no effort to escape. Dropping to the bottom of the rock pool, the sand caressing my body, moved gently by the waves, above me, eyes open I could see the sun sprinkle itself down, followed by more vivid colours twisting and contorting towards me and then everything went black, the tentacles had entered my eyes, finished twisting themselves around my limp and giving body before they floated me to the surface.

That was how my first transformation occurred, I would have to say more traumatic than my birth, of which I have no memory and I am glad of that.

Sitting in the caravan that day, now decades ago, was the first time I felt the presence, I was four and a half and in a deepening of a newly growing wisdom, I started to understand the connection. A connection so all prevailing you would need to have been deeply asleep to not ever feel it. Some children are born connected, and some children waken, I was both. Sitting in the small sleeping space at the back of the two -berth caravan, nondescript apart from it was a space we had then been forced to live in while the adults around me made changes and decisions for reasons of their brokenness.

I sat in the dark, crossed legged on the floor, book open across my knees, eyes open and reading what I couldn’t see but could visualise, a shiver ran up through my legs, along my spine and out my head, the connection had formed and from that moment onward would never be broken. At times lost, but ever present, I cried loudly and no one came so I stood up, closed the door and walked outside. That day the farm dog, minty the old cat, five crazy geese, some bees and a giant white and grey speckled butterfly came and sat with me and I felt calm.

When the world stopped spinning, I continued to walk towards the precipice alone, at least that was how it felt. Looking down into an abyss of my own thinking, I cried myself to sleep most nights, at fourteen my connection broke and I was set adrift. The plan outside of me was still in motion but I was lost. My alone thoughts were mine, comfortable, familiar, I was popular because I could disconnect, be something else to someone else as the occasion called on, but then we stopped, the carousel life had taken me was about to become static and I had to learn to be one, the same one to everyone. It was then I discovered people’s opinions mattered more that I cared for them too.

On the bus to school one morning, I decided enough was enough, the ridiculousness of my situation of being and fitting into the randomised structures and ideas of another because of age or status, a world where adults continued to speak their truth and make rules from their brokenness, bleeding the toxicity in their blood through to everything flowing from generation to generation.

I got off the bus that day and started to walk, I liked walking and it seemed to me to be as good a thing to do as any other, on a deeper level it just made sense. I walked a lot that year, I walked through parents telling me what I should and shouldn’t do, I walked through teacher’s concern over my education, I walked past men who should have know better for their age, I walked with no where to go, just with a purpose of needing to be with me. But still the world was an ever prevailing place and society had a power when unleashed in your direction could not be avoided no matter how much I walked.

And so for a small amount of time I was broken, introverted, shy, ashamed of me, ashamed of a world that allowed those feeling to be, nurtured them and then berated you for having them.

But I had learned how to behave, so a lesson that should not have been learned, was learned and for a while I behaved, but my voice was not lost, just buried, temporally.

In my dreams I could see another, but a decade would have to pass and a time lost to doing as should be, whilst screaming internally and clawing slowly through the dirt and filth in my heart.

And again I came back to water, surrendering control to someone else, somewhere else. I finally broke the surface of the soil with the tips of my nails and resurfaced, but angry and afraid I needed to pull this world apart. At twenty-five I opened my eyes and never shut them again.

As the story goes, the tale is told, I listened as I disappointed one after another, but never me.

And so to walking.

On this part of my journey I learned to listen to what falls between the cracks, to words not spoken, to the earth beneath my feet, to the unrest of the rested as they sleep through their lives consumed with the unfilled that will never come to be until we are all who we just are.

That’s it. We are all who we are, no more no less.

I found a solace in this as I journeyed, often times still, shrugging the early anger from my body as a cat sheds its fur, slowly, slowly. I understood there was no understanding, when I came close, the World, the Person, one and the same, changed the benchmark and the barely visible disappeared again. Yet I persisted, I believed, I could hear the voices of everything shout louder, not to quit, never to quit.

I walked through forests, up mountains, through valleys and meadows, more often than cities just to find the one voice beneath all the others, the one that needed to be found.

For years my hearing failed to pinpoint the one place, but then I still had to learn and unlearn, shed the skins applied on the day of my birth and understand I had inherited the Earth as it is, not as my people or I had wanted it to be.

In the usual trick of fate, I had to journey wide to see what was close, possibly the only actual truth in the many stories we tell, everything we need is right in front of us, here, now and forever. Peace is elusive, but only if you imagine it to be and imagine a world different to the here and now.

That was the day I first placed my feet in the sand on the beach where I was to transform, bordered by the oceans that are all connected and the soil of the land that is continuous no matter how many stories we tell, borders we create, history we concoct and time we remember, we are all and we are everything.

For the next decade the sand would tell me stories of my transformation, the many voices were always one. It didn’t matter if the ocean spoke or the land or the tiny grains of sand, once I understood the language of the one is the many I could hear everything.

The bees in the land of giants, where they still lived and thrived, the ocean full of life trusting themselves to everything, the micro insects working beneath the soil, working together, the stones and their stories of eternity, their many transformations from bedrock, to volcanoes, the many places they have lived and the wondrous things they have seen, their time as incomprehensible in reality to me as counting the many grains of sand just beneath my feet.

There was only one thing I could no longer hear and that was my own people, no voices, no truths or untruths, no stories designed to hide their brokenness and I became happy.

For a while anyway, but as true as a stone is a stone, a person is a person and I am a person, one that was born into the world as it is, seen through a fixed set of eyes and it was my destiny to be transformed.

On the beach that day as I dove into the rock pool the Earth stories I had been told comforted me as I died small body deaths, blindness, deafness, immobility, my stillness.

Sometimes you need to be still, and how else could I have been if the Earth had not helped me, I had to become the centre of my own gravity, the centre of my own people, to grow again I needed to be the mountain I stood on in order to birth her, thirty years she took to grow in my chest as I patiently waited, a century in total for a change to come.

And so I come to my final death, my swan song, for all but a moment I am everywhere and nowhere, I am all time and no time, the sweetness of my ecstasy breaks my heart in two and I melt away, there in my place she sits, young and whole, unborn and alive.

I am now

Draft 2

2nd Draft – 625 words

I am Sidhe. I am eternal. We choose to live as non-Eternals for seventy years to not forget.

Today is the day of my transformation.

I stood in time for nearly a century; today, it will end and begin. For seventy years, I have looked through their eyes and listened through their ears. My waiting started on the day of my birth. Waiting and watching, learning what this century brings.

Today on the beach, I will lift a stone, the same one I have raised every day for a year, same place, same time, a way to remind myself of what is gone and what was yet to come, a way to understand how it can all be the same but different, a day older, a day the same, simultaneously moving forward and standing still. 

Having spent seventy years in this body, I will be sad but grateful for the understanding it has brought to my being. Choosing the path of my transition has been incredibly hard, leaving behind everything I have grown to love. I understand the transformation and bring forward every love I have known. But it does not make it easy.

Today I have chosen to swim with the Jellyfish. This morning there is an incredible bloom. We Eternals vibrate with the world differently; it listens the closer we move to it. The sea is turquoise, bordered by gold and grey jagged-edged rocks forming a natural pool in their centre. Into this nautilus shell-shaped rock structure, I will dive.

The bloom will swarm to the point of my entry. I will feel a vast, consuming loss. A sequence of events will happen, and I will be whole. It is my destiny.

In the moment of my transformation, I will feel fear deep to my core. It is the same each time. I love all of my lives as they have been. I remember for eternity. Towards the end, I become silent, an observer in my otherwise active life.

But with no one to talk to or question if this path is the way, my conviction shatters into a million pieces, outnumbering the grains of sand on the beach. I lay down, unwilling to go forward.

Curling into a foetal position, I sob, first quiet tears, the type that drop from your eyes when you are afraid to show any expression, deep emotions hidden. Then sobs emanate from the centre of my being, raising in waves and tensing my whole body, fixing it into an explosive rigour mortis position before forcibly evicting all the emotion from my shell, leaving behind a lightness for a brief moment.

That moment was all I needed. Steadily I walk to my dive point, look into the jellyfish bloom and dive in.

From that point, my transformation moves quickly. Initially, my body stings and tentacles wrap around my limbs. I make no effort to escape. Dropping to the bottom of the rock pool, the sand caresses my skin, moved gently by the waves above me. Eyes open, I can see the sun sprinkle gold down, more vivid colours twisting and contorting towards me. Everything goes black. Tentacles enter my eyes, tangling around my limp and giving body before they float me to the surface.

That was how my transformation occurred. More traumatic than my birth, but I have no memory of it. I am glad.

I can no longer hear the non-Eternals: I see my people, no voices, no truths or untruths, no stories designed to hide their brokenness.

I am happy.

For a while, but as a stone is a stone, a person is a person. I am an Eternal whose destiny is to be transformed to understand.

I am now. I am eternal. I am Sidhe.

 

Draft 3

3rd Draft – 441 words

I am Sidhe*. I am Eternal.

We choose to live as non-Eternals for seventy years lest we forget.

It is the day of my transformation. Today, it will begin and end. For seventy years, I have looked through their eyes and listened through their ears. My waiting started on the day of my birth—a new century to watch and understand.

Today on the beach, I lift a stone, the same one I have raised every day for a year, same place, same time. Honouring what is gone and what is yet to come. Understanding the same, the different, a day, the day, moving forward and standing still.

Seventy birthdays in this body, I am sad to leave but grateful for the understanding it has brought me. Choosing the path of my transition is always hard, leaving behind everything.

I understand the transformation and carry forward every love.

I have chosen to swim with jellyfish; they have listened, and an incredible bloom awaits me. We Eternals vibrate with the world. We are all one. Nearby, grey jagged-edged rocks circle a turquoise sea forming a natural pool at their centre. Into this, I will dive. The bloom will swarm to my point of entry. I will feel a vast, consuming loss. And once again, I will be whole. It is my destiny.

As my final moments approach, I become silent, an observer. I question my conviction and wonder if this path is still the way. My belief shatters into a billion pieces, outnumbering the grains of sand on the beach below my feet. I lay down, curling into a foetal position, weeping silent tears—followed by howls emanating from the centre of my being. My breaths rise in waves, and my body tenses before forcibly evicting all the emotion from my form, leaving behind a brief moment of lightness.

A moment is all I need. Steadily I walk to the rock pool, look towards the jellyfish bloom and dive in.

From this point, my transformation moves quickly. Tentacles wrap around my limbs and sting my body. I remain still and silent, sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Waves sway above me. My eyes open for the final time. Shards of yellow light refract in the water, sear my eyes, and everything goes black. I end. The jellyfish embracing my limp-giving body float me to the surface.

My transformation is complete. I no longer hear the non-Eternals: I see my people, no voices, no truths or untruths, no stories to hide the broken.

I am here. I am now. I am an Eternal. My destiny is to be transformed to understand. I am Sidhe.

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