No One Said It Would Be Easy

A writers best and worst friend.

A writer's best and worst friend.

Labor Day weekend proved quite productive for the writer in me as I edited and revised two short stories in preparation for submission to fall fiction contests — see below for links to some of these great contests for new and established authors. The first was a story I had submitted previously to a few literary magazines. It needed some major reworking if it was ever going to stand a chance. Surely this “third final draft” is far superior to the “first final draft” I completed over a year ago…but will it be good enough to make it? Who knows? The second is a story I’ve been working on for quite some time and I finally feel it is complete after half a dozen vigorous rounds of editing and revision…but is it ready to be submitted?

During some of my down time this weekend I perused the web and found two great links for writers sharing in the stress of revising and editing their work. Many would say the editing and revision process is the bane of a writer’s existence, but it must be embraced in order to evolve as a writer and hopefully find success. I knew I had finally embraced the process when I woke up one morning not inspired by some great new “idea” for a story, but by an image of the manuscript I had toiled over the night before in my head with words crossed out and notes in the margins. I actually woke up excited about editing and revising my story…but then I realized it would have to wait as I had to get ready for work and go to my “day job.” Not having the time when inspired is the true bane of a writer’s life…but, hey, no one said it would be easy.

Another bane of the writer’s life is remembering all those rules about grammar, sentence structure and word usage. I bet you’ve always been told to never end a sentence in a preposition, right? Well, thanks to this helpful link from Grammar Girl, you can end your worries about prepositions. Apparently it’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition…sometimes…and there are some guidelines to follow when writing to impress. Also provided are helpful tips on how to eliminate unnecessary prepositions in other parts of your sentences…which should prove useful if you’re like me and need to trim some fat from your writing. Much of my early work was accused of being too wordy…and sometimes the easiest and most practical words to cut are those unnecessary prepositions.

Meanwhile, at Narrative Magazine editor Tom Jenks offers writers an invaluable guide with “A Brief Handbook on Revision for Writers.”  Narrative not only publishes some of the best literary fiction out there, but also provides great advice to its online community of writers. It’s free to join and read their online magazine, and any writer worth their salt would be amiss not to take advantage of all Narrative has to offer.

Written by David H. Schleicher

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And now for some of those contests:

Glimmer Train Press is holding their seasonal Fiction Open Contest as well as awarding their Best Start as a way to motivate emerging writers to tackle those daunting new projects.

Boulevard Online is calling for entries in its current Fall 2009 Story Contest.

Narrative’s Fall 2009 Story Contest is one of the few I found that is open to fiction, non-fiction and graphic stories.

For fellow Delaware Valley authors, Philadelphia Stories is offering the Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction.

And also be sure to check out the 2009 Fall Fiction Contest at OnceWritten.com.

Have any writing tips, contest links or literary magazine recommendations you care to share with fellow readers and writers? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comment form!

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2 comments on “No One Said It Would Be Easy

  1. Chris Tait says:

    Great article, Dave. I’ll definitely be checking out the links. I must admit, though, that I actually enjoy the revision process. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy the first-draft-writing phase as well, but I’ve found that by doing revisions, I see certain things about the story that I didn’t see before, and I have a clearer idea of what I want to do. It’s funny that, in my earlier days of writing, I said that I didn’t just dislike revising, I was flat-out terrible at it. Lately, however, I think I’ve gotten much better at it, which probably adds to my enjoyment.

    As for grammar, I don’t worry about it too much, to be honest. I try not to let my fear of grammar get in the way of telling a good story.

    Chris, I totally agree. I love revising now — though earlier in my writing life I would’ve said I hated the idea of it. I especially love churning out a first draft and then letting it sit for sometimes months before returning to it. I feel that is where you can give the story breathing room to evolve and allow it to take you new places when you finally pick it up again to edit and revise. –DHS

  2. ccyager says:

    I love the process of revision. It’s a lot more fun to me than the struggle to get a first draft down on paper (or computer screen). Writing, to me, is revision. I recently solved a problem I was having with a story while waiting for a city bus. I love moments like that when the lightning of inspiration hits…especially in the oddest places and times.

    I enjoy your blog, David. Keep up the good work.

    Cinda
    http://ccyager.wordpress.com

    Cinda, yes…inspiration can be a damnably funny thing that strikes at the strangest of times. I revise as I write (type) so that 1st draft is actually probably a 3rd or 4th. –DHS

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