Since I've had a number of short story sales lately (huzzah!), I'm working on editing a new story to put into submissions soon. This tale, "Lip Service," is a contemporary fantasy. where phantasmal creatures resembling bees secrete magical energy; their sting puts victims under their spell. The story is told from the perspective of the teenaged daughter of a hunter who gets dragged into her mother's life. It is also chock-full of references to both the word "kiss" and phrases / idioms that involve it, hence the title.
Editing it has been a bit of frustration, though. I've gone through it twice now, and each time, the goalposts of what I need to revise change. On the bright side, it's mostly tweaks and expansions, adding more detail rather than serious alterations to the plotline. Though part of the point of the story *is* that the character is a teenager unsure of her direction in life, I've tried to sharpen her goals and motivations. Another goal in the editing process was to intensify the sense of stakes - a fine balancing act between the trivial and, "Why would her mother let her get involved with this?"'
And then, just as I reached the end of the most recent pass through, I realized I needed to work a bit more on the line of investigation the story follows. Why didn't I pick this up the first time through? Am I just an idiot? ... don't answer that.
Making all this trickier is the fact that the story was just too long, somewhere over 7500 words. Ideally, I want to get it under 6000 ... which means a lot of cutting while still building up the elements mentioned above.
Another point on my mind is the tone. The story is light and sometimes humorous, but it's not intended to be comedy - it just incorporates human foibles and a narrator with a tongue in cheek streak. It also includes some in-jokes about Celtic / traditional musicians that are probably only funny if you're part of that community. I could push it over the line into outright humor, but I'm not really feeling that. Conversely, it wouldn't bear the opposite treatment: I'd have to strip out some of the bones to make it read as a truly dramatic, serious tale.
I'll be going over it one more time, but if I'm not satisfied after that, I may have to shelve it for longer to get somewhere I'm happy with. Or maybe, perfectionist that I am, that's just not possible, and I should give up and be sensible ...