___WORDS FROM ME_____________________________________

editing making see

For anyone who is interested, my short story "Making See" (which appears in the Eibonvale Press anthology Sensorama) had a different route into print from most of my short stories, in that the editor Allen Ashley asked me to do a bit of a rewrite and beef some things up, particularly the ending.

This is different, you ask?


Normally I have found that a tale is accepted or bounced as it stands. Editors and publishers often don't have the time to take stories - and ever increasingly these days books - that require a rewrite or a lot of editing and work.

I'm not being critical. It's the way the business has gone. There's only so much time in the day, only so many dollars in a wallet, and a lot of pressure to Get Things Done.

Most of my published stuff, barring some small changes here and there, is seen in the finished publication in the same shape as it was originally submitted. So it was different to get the message from Allen saying he liked the piece but he thought it might be better and possibly worthy of inclusion in the book if I did "this" and maybe "that" too . . .

Now, there are two ways of reacting to such a request.

One is to throw everything out of the window and call the editor in question lots of names and pin his or her likeness to a dartboard and spend the evening throwing spears at it, while decrying the general ignorance of the world at large for not recognising your genius and raising your to your rightful status -- which is of course, slightly above Dickens, but possibly just a tiny, tiny -- ever so tiny -- bit beneath Shakespeare, and deny them their request, letting them know just what you think of them and in no uncertain terms -- unless, of course, they may pass you a pay cheque at some point in the future, in which case you just fume until your cheeks burn red and pretend never to have recieved the email or letter from them. (You'd be surprised how many writers take this approach. No, really. You would be very surprised how many.)

The second, and far wiser course of action, is to scratch your chin, tilt your head to one side receptively, and look at the story through the eyes of the editor who has read your work and seen something there that you yourself have missed. The smart thing to do, even if you're unsure about the editor's wisdom in making his or her suggestions, it to get to work and see what happens if you follow the advice. Because you're not better than Dickens and never will be. Hell, you'll be lucky if you're better than anyone else in the publication in which your work will appear. The editor is on your side and it is important to remember that. He or she doesn't want to put something in their book or magazine or journal or whatever that they think is substandard, or which they know could be better if only the writer would just do this or do that . . .

I looked at what Allen had suggested and put pen to paper (or in this case finger to keyboard). And what do you know? What I was left with at the end of the work was a tale that was ten times better than it had been before. Even my girlfriend, who hadn't thought much of the piece when I'd first subbed it, liked the rewritten version. So already I was ahead. If Allen didn't like the rewritten piece and didn't take it, at least I would have something that was in a better shape to be subbed elsewhere. So there was another plus. As luck would have it, Allen did like the piece, and was generous enough to include it in the anthology. I'm very pleased to be in print there.

So thanks to Allen for being a hands-on editor and getting those hands dirty; the truth is that for all his work I'm the one who gets to look better for it. With anyone who reads the piece (whether they like it or not) and with my girlfriend, too. Can't get a better deal than that.

So no dartboards here. No spears. The editor is your friend. And it's a  foolish writer who doesn't at least look at what has been suggested to him . . . or her.

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