by Ian Clements


It’s easy to become a bit irrational about sending your story out into the world. It’s mostly done; yet if I tucked that, trimmed this, ah….and that. Before you know it you’re like an obsessive mother on your son’s first day at school, preening and fussing until he’s squirming to get out of the door and away. You can’t know that he’s ready any more than you know if your story is. Simply do the best you can and the rest is out of your control, but what is your best? Would you know it if you saw it?

Sometimes you know you’re sitting on gold. Most of the time it’s a strange ore which sort of glints if you catch it in the right light, but that could just be your eyes playing up. As Mark Twain said “writing is easy, all you have to do is cross out the wrong words”, yet in the final, final edit you realise how vulnerable the whole thing is, every word is the wrong word. Theories abound to dealing with this: get some distance for a week, even a month, then edit. Correct the most glaring errors and don’t sweat the small stuff. It will never be as ready as you want it, as it deserves.

Me? I’m still figuring it out. I do know that over-working a final draft is a bit like whitening teeth until they become a hollywood smile. Yes, all the plaque is gone, but the enamel is too, the flavour, and you’re left with something blandly machine-made. To paraphrase Anne Lammot: “getting a story finished is like putting an octopus to bed”. If you find that you’re wondering about a single word choice in a paragraph then you’re done. No reader will be that attentive. Get it out there and start writing another so you don’t obsess about whose hands it’s landed in, and whether they’re going to treat it kindly.