The Things You Cannot See

I recently listened to the silliness a childhood song my kid played for me. Memories can come back again. Maybe you can go home.

“I know an old lady who swallowed a fly … But I don’t know why she swallowed the fly, I guess she’ll die.”

Rose Bonne

With a quick Wikipedia search, I realized the old lady song has many versions and lyrical variations. In some renditions, it’s perhaps vs guess. And when she swallows the horse, Of course, she died. Over time, this changes too. The song was first published in the 1950s and political correctness runs in spurts. Language has meaning. It runs through our fiber. What we wear. How we think. Current events. It all impacts the written words and ultimately what we read.

These are just small and incremental changes to a short song. That might be the beauty and silliness of the song. It can grow too! I don’t know why she swallowed an elephant … a tuba … a Volkswagen Beetle (with a diesel engine). As the song gets longer, it becomes more complicated. Did she swallow a trumpet or flute? Oh, it was a tuba.

In writing, I keep track of the number of drafts. Mostly, I do it for novels and short stories but occasionally I do take a glance at the WordPress version count on a short post. I don’t know why I track the drafts, I just do. Call it a badge of honor. It is a little maddening to track thousands of words. Was the horse white or black? And does it matter if the old lady swallowed it?

Just like the song, my children’s tale is starting to have a life of its own. It’s growing. After the first four drafts, I felt like I was getting down to the small, incremental changes. I was starting to contemplate guess vs perhaps vs of course.

When you start splitting the painful hairs of minor changes, it’s time to take your masterpiece to an editor for review. And when I got it back, it was marked up to pieces. I was prepared for this. I’ve been here before (see post).

Still, it blows my mind what I missed. When you’re so close to a project, down in the weeds, it amazes what can be overlooked. You think a choice between perhaps and guess is monumental. But it’s not. Sometimes you have bigger problems. Every fairy tale has to have a monster of some sorts. Hansel and Gretel had the witch. Cinderella had the ugly step-mother (see apology below). And my monsters, well, I can’t tell you what they are/do just yet. But they were creating problems. Monsters do this.

My monsters developed powers they weren’t supposed to have. This happened in those Jurassic Park movies too. The velociraptor weren’t supposed to breed. But they did. Chaos Theory always comes calling.

I don’t want to spoil the end of my tale. I want to take you there slowly, carefully. The point was that I had reedited the book multiple times on my own. I was four drafts in. If you take the length of the book times the revision count and multiply by Pi, that’s a 100K+ words edited, revised, and adjusted.

It’s a lot of words. After all this work, how could my monsters break the third law of thermodynamics? When you setup rules that govern the universe, the monsters aren’t supposed to develop a mind of their own. Mine did. Now, they have to be stopped. And so, I’m going to stop them.

And that’s the power of someone looking over your work. If it’s a painting, your softball swing, an email to your boss, or the next great children’s work, it’s invaluable to get feedback from time to time. It just is.

So I’m going to go swallow my monsters. I don’t plan on dying, not yet. And when I’m done I might get a little more feedback. And you should too.