how to edit a short story

Today’s Behind the Rewrite gives some unique insight into editing a short story. I apprecate the detail that the author, Emerald, went into describing why she decided to cut the below scene from her short story “Winter,” part of her collection, Initiative: Tales of Erotic Boldness.

Emerald’s Behind The Rewrite

My book is fundamentally different from most youll read about on this site, as it is a collection of short stories rather than a novel. I have been writing short fiction for around two decades and have published a number of short stories in multi-author anthologies. I have also written three collections of my own, the latest of which was released May 1.

Thus, the deleted scene I am about to expound upon was deleted from a short story rather than a novel. This of course has different implications, but there are also ways that choosing to delete (or not include) a scene and how it can affect a work as a whole are universal in writing.

My story Winteris one of the longer ones in my latest book, Initiative: Tales of Erotic Boldness, as well as one of the four previously unpublished stories I wrote specifically for the collection. Its a very sense-oriented story, and one where I could visualize the scenery and perceive the solitude, slowness, and silence of the environment vividly. There is interaction between the main character and other characters, but it is minimaland that, ultimately, is one of the reasons the scene below was cut.

I loved this scene because I did a lot of research on the Northern Lights as part of the landscape of winter in Alaska, and I had viewed so many photos and videos of them that I wanted to put a description of them in writing. However, just because something is so beautiful it begs description in words doesn’t mean inserting said description into a work in progress is always in service to the story. (Incidentally, dont let that keep you from writing it! You could always use it for something else, and even if you dont, if you feel compelled to write something, I am all for doing so. All Im recommending here is to ensure it propels the narrative youre offering rather than just existing as a description of something lovely.)

Ultimately, I was so focused on the scenic description of the Northern Lights and Sherrys response to them that it didnt feel forthcoming to also try to increase and emphasize sexual tension, which, with the limited interaction Sherry has with this character, it was important to do with every one of their interactions. More subtly, the character who speaks to her in this scene is very unobtrusive in her solitary experience in Alaska, and this scene didnt illustrate that well (on the contrary, he speaks to her before she knows hes there and startles her). Overall, as much as I loved writing about the Northern Lights, the scene just did not display what I wanted to about either the male character or the developing interactions between him and Sherry. (A few of the lines/descriptions from it about her experience did end up in other scenes of the story.)

editing a short story

DELETED FROM WINTERIN INITIATIVE: TALES OF EROTIC BOLDNESS

She wandered across the snow, her eyes on the silent phenomenon dazzling the night sky. Phosphorescent green streaks drifted over blackness like an understated version of the movie Fantasia. It didnt look like the vibrant, multicolored light show shed seen in postcard-like photos of the Northern Lights online. But in the dark, freezing night, it did look magical.

Sherry couldnt remember ever feeling more solitary than she did at that moment, though there was nothing disquieting about the sensation. On the contrary, if shed had to choose one word to describe what she felt right then, it would be connected.

Quite the vision, huh?

Sherry jumped, whirling to find the man who had spoken to her the night before standing about twenty feet behind her. Two of his friends were with him, looking up at the sky.

Im sorry,he said immediately. I didnt mean to startle you.Sherry sensed sincerity in his voice, and she relaxed and returned his smile.

Thats okay,she said, clearing her throat. It felt like a long time since she had spoken out loud. I was justabsorbed.

Yeah.The man nodded, looking back up at the sky. This is one of the reasons to come to Alaska in winter.

Sherry turned somewhat awkwardly back around. Despite the effortless connectedness shed felt moments before, the actual exchange of words with someone had felt slightly jolting. Nonetheless, she directed her gaze upward and resumed her sky-watching.

When she glanced back several moments later, two more of his friends had silently joined the group, and all five men stood in a cluster, looking up and murmuring occasionally to one another. Soon after, she heard their muted voices retreating, and when she turned again, they were headed back to the building. Sherry let her breath out as she watched them file through the back door.

Want To Read The Book?

Initiative: Tales of Erotic BoldnessFrom audacious proposals to first-time exploits to newfound inner confidence, taking initiative delves into the risqué in these thirteen smoldering tales. An accidental catalyst invokes a bold move in Fulfillment,while the brassiness in Shift Changebelongs entirely to narrator Stacey. Whos on Top?sees a meeting between fans of rival baseball teams turn into a game of chance and wits, and The Beast Withinoffers a present-day Beauty and the Beastrendition that puts a twist on ugliness, beauty, pain, and pleasureand the surprising ways they can intertwine.

Sometimes brazen, sometimes subtle, the initiatives between these pages always showcase the erotic and how it can both inspire and evoke our most emboldened selves.

More About Emerald

Emerald is an erotic fiction author interested in elevating discussion of and attention to authentic sexual experience. Her short fiction has been featured in more than thirty multi-author anthologies in the genre, and her book Safe: A Collection of Erotic Stories won the bronze IPPY in the Erotica category of the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards. The majority of her wardrobe incorporates glitter in some capacity.

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