Monday, June 07, 2010

That proof-reading/reviewing process

Last week I got round to proof-reading the second collection of short stories I submitted to eXcessica.

I find this a useful exercise aside from the obvious benefit of eliminating all the typos and other mistakes that slipped through with the first submission (Some, but thankfully not that many). This is the first time I get to review the anthology and see how it hangs together. It might sound strange considering I wrote the stories in the first place, but while actually writing the stories it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of letters and punctuation and lose sight of the whole story.

Coming back to the stories after a few months gives me a chance to reflect on what worked and what still needs improvement. At this point it’s too late to break out the pen (or word processor) to make changes bigger than correcting spelling mistakes and the like, which is as it should be. There has to be a point when you accept a story is complete, warts and all, otherwise you’ll spend the rest of your life rewriting and rewriting the same five pages over and over again. Better to let it loose and apply what you’ve learned to the next creation.

Seeing the first collection, “A Succubus for Christmas” (out this October), at this stage was a huge relief. First and foremost my aim is to write erotica, but it’s nice when some of the stories are also nice little horror stories in their own right. I was especially happy the brand new original novella I wrote exclusively for the collection was good and did not suck as I feared it might while struggling to scratch down all ten thousand words of it.

There are more brand new stories in the second collection, “A Succubus for Valentine’s Day”, and I was also a bit more active in retuning some of the old stories. Although in one case maybe not active enough, but that’s what a learning process is. The new stories came out okay. I think I was maybe a little too cynical on one and a bit too eager with the anvil dropping. Another tick in the column of things to watch out for in future. Another story turns out sweet and nice (a rarity for me), is a good solid story, but is just missing that little bit of heat so important in erotica.

That’s not to say the stories are bad, but I’m always on the lookout for things that could be better. Even for something like “A Summer Dance with a Succubus”, which is one of those beautiful things for a storyteller—a flash of inspiration that drops perfectly into place as a tale.

The existing story I tinkered with the most was the title piece. The original ending is deliberately unpleasant—the see-saw tipped more to horror—but that wasn’t enough. Based on feedback I saw a possibility for something even worse and went for it. I still don’t think I quite nailed it, but that might be a good thing considering what I was aiming for was to rip the reader’s heart out of their chest and leave it beating in a pile of bloody gore on the table in front of them.

I’m really a nice person when you get to know me. Honest.

Anyway, if Valentine’s Day is normally a time of the year that fills you with a sense of nausea over the mass-marketed, cloying sentimentality that infects everything, then I’ll have the antidote for you right here. Boy, do I have an antidote.

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