All kinds of stories need editing and rewriting, even very short stories. Sometimes a very short story will come to me in its final form, but it often happens that I will go back to a story, and back to it again, making small changes to make it better. One of the things that’s most gratifying about a very short story is how even little changes can make a big difference.
Every now and then I discover something in the editing process that truly surprises me. I have an example here that I’d like to share with you now.
Here’s how the story looked when I first wrote it.
I lay on my back in the middle of my lawn in the middle of America, and imagined the North Star was my bindi, so small and so huge was I.
Recall that a bindi is the dot that many Indian women wear on their forehead between their eyes. So, the story shows an Indian woman lying on her lawn at night and perceiving the relationship between herself and the rest of the universe.
Then later on I read the story again and revised it.
i lay on my back in the middle of my lawn in the middle of america, and imagined the north star was my bindi, so small and so huge was i.
I changed all the letters to lower case. In particular, I changed the capital I to small i. I did it for a couple of reasons. First, changing to a small i resonated with the small in the story. Second and more important, the dot on the i resonated with the bindi and also the North Star. Now the text wasn’t just about the words – it was also about the visual appearance of the text.
The next change was the one that really gave me an ah-ha moment.
i lay on my back in the middle of my lawn in the middle of america and imagined the north star was my bindi so small and so huge was i
See the difference? No commas, and no period at the end. The story can be read in a single breath without pauses, and now there is nothing but the letters themselves to suggest that it’s text at all. Take a step back and the story is a stream of symbols stretched across the page. The letters aren’t letters anymore. They’re…stars.
It’s moments like these, when I accidentally find something new, that I feel happiest to be a writer.