Post # 11 – Editing



Is there anything worse than editing? Okay, there is nuclear holocaust. And genocide. And famine. And cancer. But besides those and likely thousands more, is there anything worse than editing?

Editing usually means I’m not working on a shiny, new story. Instead, I’m probably reviewing a story I’m sick of because it’s the fifth, or tenth, time I’m reading it.

I think I’ve pared my editing down to four drafts. The first draft is the hot off the press rough draft. The second draft is after I’ve reviewed it once to plug any glaring holes and clean up spelling and grammar. Then I send it to my critique group. The third draft is when I incorporate their feedback. By that time, the story has sat long enough I can review it fairly objectively and really see what’s missing or needs to be cut. Hopefully, my critique group has seen that too. The fourth draft is for copy edits. And if I’m not completely sick of it, I’ll read through one more time.

Then the rejections come in, and I feel the need to edit again before sending the story back out. Heinlein’s Rule Three says to avoid that trap, and I agree to a certain extent. However, as a new writer, my stories contain many rookie mistakes. I didn’t even know they were mistakes until reading Sam Knight’s Blood From Your Own Pen and K.M. Weiland’s blog Helping Writers Become Authors. So I edit out those mistakes as best I can when a story I already have out comes back rejected. I don’t know if those mistakes were why an editor rejected a particular story, but I want to eliminate the easy reasons for editors to reject my work.

What I didn’t realize at the start of my writing adventure was how long this process took. Professionals seem to do this all in a matter of days, if not hours. Of course, they probably aren’t sending short stories to a critique group or beta readers. And my guess is the magazine editors will forgive if their story has a few spelling/grammatical errors. As an unpublished author, I don’t have that luxury. My submissions need to be near perfect to have a fighting chance.

Professional authors also know what they’re doing from the start, so I imagine their first drafts are considerably better than my own. They know to avoid passive voice, whereas I have to constantly remind myself. They know how to avoid the info dump whereas I’m still learning to subtly work in backstory.  I’ll get there… with years of practice.

So I keep editing. And editing. But it’s always more fun to work on a shiny, new story.

Post #3 – Rejection



Let’s talk about rejection.  As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve already been rejected as an author numerous times.  In fact, with the rejection I received today, everything I’ve submitted has been rejected at least once.  One short story has been rejected eight times!

How should I take that?  It depends on who you ask.  One author I’ve read (and I will talk about who I’ve been reading in a later post) stated if a story is rejected five or six times, it means the story is not good enough for publication; and the writer should move on to other stories and possibly other careers.  Another author advocated a writer keep submitting the story to different markets no matter the number of rejections.  This author’s take was that there is a lot of luck involved in finding the right editor at the right time who will accept a new writer’s work. Though I read this advice elsewhere, it actually is #5 of Heinlein’s Five Rules.

I adopted the latter approach.  Currently, there are around 35 SFWA-qualifying markets for short stories (generally not including anthologies). However, not all of these accept the same type of story or the same length of story, and not all are continuously open to unsolicited submissions.  In other words, the actual number of markets available for submission of a particular short story are much fewer at any one time.  And those markets likely are receiving hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions.  To paraphrase the reverse of the popular Hunger Games quote, the odds are forever not in my favor.

That is especially true when you understand that new writers don’t sell copies of an issue or subscriptions to that publication overall.  Established writers, those whose names appear on the cover, do.  New writers are lucky if there are a handful of slots in a year’s worth of publications reserved for their work.

The rejections haven’t been all bad.  One of my stories was selected in the initial round of a writing contest, though it did not place in the final round.  Another story received what I call a positive rejection.  That is still a form rejection, but instead of just saying we won’t publish your story, it says we liked your story but we won’t publish it.  And we encourage you to submit more stories for consideration.  The rejection received today was from the same market and was my first personalized rejection.  This rejection was the same as the position rejection, but it included an individual critique of the story from the editor.  With the volume of submissions these days, my understanding is individualized feedback from an editor is almost unheard of.  Needless to say, I plan to revise my story in response to that feedback before submitting it to another market.  (The editor did not ask for revisions and re-submission.  Maybe that will happen when I submit my next story to this market.)  If you’re interested in the topic of tiered form rejections, there is an interesting post here.

Where does this leave me?  To paraphrase another movie (and its predecessor play), always be writing and always be submitting.