I thought I was so smart by changing the gender of one character from male to female, but after letting the story sit for a day or two I reread it to realize I now had so many women in the room, it was confusing to tell them apart.
The character is now a man again.
And I had far too many sections that had to be rewritten where the reader would have simply become confused because I had not stated the obvious either blatantly or through a discrete reference or by giving a clue.
Show, don't tell. Show, don't tell. That staccato phrase has become my mantra.
Also, there are two aspects of the story I refuse to change as they are what make the story mine and, more importantly, also because of my relationship with you, the reader. Allow me to explain.
I have been told I use big words. That is true. In Strange Streets I use words and phrases like "sylvan bric-à-brac," "will-o-the-wisp," "chocolatiers," "minuscule tapers," and, my favorite, "aurulent" (though I did give in and changed "aurulent" to "cinnamon-colored").
Also, I leave the ending somewhat ambiguous though it is very clear how the story ends. I just didn't come out and shove the ending in the reader's face as I thought it would be insulting to the intelligence.
And that's the reason. Though I like to think I write only for myself and "if I build it, the audience will come," the reason I write the way I do is because I have a lot of respect for my readers. They don't need bully pulpit hack stories that speak down to them and assume they have no reading level above 4th grade. That's insulting.
It may be conceit, but I like to think my readers are very intelligent. They do not need to be spoon fed.
I am moving through the various stages of writing with Strange Streets:
- Contentment upon completing the first draft.
- Horror at the first reading.
- Frustration during the first edit.
- Hope as the first edit sits for awhile.
- Despair at the second reading.
- Resentment during the second edit.
- Waves of optimism and desperation through the remaining editing cycles.
- Fear as I prepare to surrender it to my critique circle.
- Terror as I read the story to my critique group.
- Flashes of faith as I go through the final edit.
- Amazement and gratitude when I find somebody who actually wants to read the thing.