Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Broken, not sprained, and the Rejectophile

I got a call from the girl's doc yesterday.  The radiologist saw something on the film, so she gets to go back this morning for a consult.  I don't think they'll change the splint/ibuprofen thing, but they may talk to her about what it means to have a bone break and how long she'll have to take care of it and how.  She's feeling okay, doesn't seem to have any functionality issues and she's getting around at school, which is the important part as far as I'm concerned.

In writing news, I got a swift rejection from Sword and Sorceress 23.    Sounds like it was mainly a miss by tone, or at least she didn't spend any of her time to mention any other issues.  That's great news as far as I'm concerned.  She also reminded me to keep sending it out.  I'll definitely follow that advice.

I have yet to meet (in email or in a rejection letter, or, come to think of it, face to face) a mean editor.  So, where are the heartless fiends that writers complain about?  I've definitely got to send out more stories.  I suspect that they're a rare or even a dying breed (if they ever existed) and I think I'll make it my goal to find one before they disappear altogether.

So, added to my aim to become a regularly published author and my goal to keep adding to my rejection collection (does that make me a rejectophile?) I'm adding a quest to find a mean editor.  My quest will be especially hard because I'm only going to be submitting to paying markets and focusing on ones that pay professional rates, but I guess every quest has its limitations.  Sometimes when you're looking for Aztec gold you can afford to go to Guatemala but not necessarily Belize or any other central American country.  Also, I won't count any meanness that results from baiting, so I can only submit professional, polite cover letters.

I have a feeling this is going to be a tough quest. 


Steve Perry said...

Mean editors definitely existed. More common are well-meaning but dim-bulb editors. Couple come to mind:

Once had a DB tell me he'd buy a story if I'd make one tiny change -- the female protag to a man. Of course, the whole point of the story was that the protag was a woman. I declined, and sold it elsewhere.

Had another one, nice guy, miss the fact that I spent the whole story hiding the sex of a character by using an ambiguous name ("Jackie") who thought I didn't know how to use a pronoun, and who promptly put "she" everywhere I had used "Jackie," thus killing the tale. I called him on it. His name was Jack, and he'd always refused to let people call him "Jackie," because it was -- to him -- obviously a girl's name.

Most of the mean ones quit or get fired eventually, but some the DB's soldier on. I've been lucky in that most of my editors have been bright and experienced, but sometimes a newbie will think they are making things better and they aren't. You have to be gentle, but you do have to set them straight -- otherwise, they don't learn.

Kami said...

Tough information for a writer trying to break in. On the one hand, newbie writers such as myself have to be cautious and humble about our abilities and instincts. On the other hand, with DB editors on the loose, the writer has to be willing to pull the story if editorial requirements savage the heart of it.

Of course I'm all about the tough. If I end up in a position where I strongly disagree with an editor's suggestions I might take a deep breath, remember your comment and go ahead and try a different market.

It sounds like chances are that I won't be placed in that position. That's a very good thing. I'm sure it would be very tempting to dismember a story for a publishing credit. In the long run, though, I expect that would be a disservice as I can't imagine that a mangled story would be received very well.

Steve Perry said...

William Goldman, in his book, Adventures in the Screen Trade, says that a writer must protect the spine of his story. I like to think of it as the heart.

One can lop off the odd finger, or graft on a foot, but if the changes don't hurt the heart, you have some wiggle room. If you have a character who is sixty and your editor thinks she'd be more believable if she was fifty, and you don't really have any attachment to her age, no point you were trying to make, then maybe you change that if it is the deal breaker.

If her age is critical to the story, then you have to explain why and make your editor see that it cannot be changed.

None of the writers I know are so good they don't need an editor.

Simon and Garfunkel recorded "The Sounds of Silence" for an acoustic album, Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m. in 1964. The album flopped big-time, and the duo broke up. Simon went off to Europe to tour on his own.

Their producer, Tom Wilson, decided to sweeten the song. He hired some players and overdubbed it, adding guitars, bass, drums. He didn't bother to tell them.

The song took off with a bullet, hit #1, and made them rich and famous. Neither of them complained.

Later, Simon supposedly said that it didn't matter because the song was essentially the same -- same words, same singers, only more instruments, so he had no problem with it.

Gone with the Wind was supposedly rejected eighteen times. Frank Herbert could give Dune away, it was turned down by most of the SF publishers. Never know what will happen until you get there ....

Kami said...

Re: None of the writers I know are so good they don't need an editor-- I think that's also something that newbie writers don't hear and/or comprehend enough. Like the concept of 'someday I'll write the great American novel' I suspect there's a persistent belief that stories spring forth whole and fully formed out of writers' foreheads like Athena, but I've yet to meet a writer who can accurately call himself Zeus.

One of the things I look forward to is, on the happy day when I get an acceptance, seeing first hand what a professional editor does with a novel. The combination of experience and fresh eyes sounds promising. By the time I'm "done" polishing a novel, my eyes are way past the pull date.