The Color Red

Recently, three authors whom I admire gave me a crash course in the color red. Two told me red symbolizes pain, anguish, and bloodshed. The other author showed me.

He took a sample of my writing and projected it against a wall for the class and me to study. First came the untouched opening of a chapter I had spent a month working on. The class and I read it, nodded, and waited for the edited version. I thought I was ready, but when the edits came on the screen, I saw red. And I don’t mean I was angry–the page was red, red, red.

As I tried to put on my “this-is-such-a-great-learning-opportunity” face, my eyes scanned for some black letters, some remnant of my creation.  There were some, but not as many as I’d have liked. The room had gone silent. I couldn’t speak, so I nodded my understanding as often as was appropriate to show my critic that any time he wanted to move on to the next person’s sample, it was fine by me. I inwardly felt like a wrestler banging his hand against the mat for mercy, and I realized then that editors and critics don’t use red ink because  it stands out clearer on the page. The symbolism was…perfect.

Red is a primary color. It’s only natural that editing–and hard editing at that–is a primary part of a writer’s life. It hurts like fire but writing would be nothing without it. When I got home after the class, I had over a dozen critiques to filter. It wasn’t easy. Some contradicted others’ critiques. Some I didn’t understand. Some were so spot-on, I kicked myself for days. But out of all those critiques, the ones I appreciated the most were the ones that told me straight out, “This and this don’t work.” While I personally needed the affirmation I also received, my writing needed the red.

Is there life after the color red? My sample chapter, unbelievably, lived to see another draft. And I learned that red has other symbolism besides pain. It also symbolizes vibrancy. After edits, writing is stronger, leaner, and more defined.

Now when I sit down to my work in progress, I write with red in mind, remembering that rough drafts will always be primitive and that there will always be red. I’ll never out-edit an editor, and someone will always be able to suggest improvements to my drafts.  As a writer, it’s my job to take critiques into account and move on, because after the red fades, the ink of countless revisions will remain.

Published by Meagan Briggs

My passion is storytelling and helping writers bring their voice to a world that needs their words.

4 thoughts on “The Color Red

  1. Very encouraging to know that there is life after the color red! I always learn something new about you from your blogs! Keep up the good work, daughter!


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