Aren’t they? Red marks all over my manuscript, or, in this case, all over chapter three of my manuscript, mean that I have something to focus on. Let’s face it. I’m busy. Right now, my desk is piled high with school work to check, plus 3X5 cards with notes to myself, plus bills and other business correspondence that need to be paid or filed away. Underneath the stacks of schoolwork, however, sit those marked-up pages of chapter three, which means that I’ll have something to immediately work on when I have a few moments to spare. Without the red marks, I would be like a little, lost sheepling wondering what to do next and, consequently, choosing to do nothing.
Several years ago, I attended a writing workshop taught by Anya Achtenberg. Because it wasn’t a university workshop, no grades were recorded anywhere–hence, some of the participants didn’t turn in their weekly work. In one class, Anya handed back the story I’d turned in to her, but with red marks all over it.
The lady sitting next to me sighed wistfully and said, “I wish I had a manuscript with red marks all over it.”
To which, Anya replied, “You have to turn in work to get red marks.”
Red marks are a badge of honor, you see. They are a badge of the hard-working writer. If a writer doesn’t write, she isn’t going to have any beautiful, raw stories that are crying out for improvement. If a writer isn’t brave enough to hand over those beautiful, raw stories to an editor or teacher or critique partner, she isn’t going to be seeing red. And seeing red is a good thing. Viewing the world only through the black and white filter of one’s own story is severely limiting.
So, although I haven’t had much time to write or post blogs, I have been able to turn my work over to my friendly neighborhood editor, who in turn gave me something to work with in those few spare moments that I have. Being a sheepling has never suited me. Thanks, Editor!
***Painting of Alexander Pope by Michael Dahl. Yes, I’ll use ANY excuse to post an image of Pope.
****POST-EDITING to add this exclamation: Holy Guacamole! I just threw chapter three into its own document in order to begin revisions and realized for the first that this chapter, the one my editor spent less than a week line-editing, is 10,000 words long! The mind reels.