(Sandra's editing post)
There’s a new blogger in town, and in two months, he/she/it has had more than double the profile views I’ve had. If you thought Miss Snark had cornered the market on exposing nitwits, then you haven’t seen Evil Editor’s blog.
I was reading this post about the guy whose ex girlfriend prompted him to query, cackling mercilessly. The guy writes in, saying, “I am only sending this to you as my ex-girlfriend is making me... The crux of the matter is she that thinks what I write is profound and needs to be seen, whereas I write to fill my time and consider my “work” not much more than an overblown and frankly worthless etude.”
What does Evil Editor say? “So far, Evil Editor is on your side in this.”
I probably shouldn’t find so much amusement in this, but I can’t help it. I am, after all, an editor. As well as a writer. And despite experience and education in both departments, I still have a lot to learn.
Being in the position of an editor has taught me a lot about the process of submitting work and publishing. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but I don’t think I’ve ever talked at length about my shit-list here. Yes, I have a shit-list. These are the names of people who’ve really, really, really inspired a desire within me to kill. The people who’ve pissed me off to the extreme.
Now, right off, I wrote this post ages ago and just haven’t posted it. Because I was always worried someone would think I was talking about their story or that this was some sort of inverted complaint against someone who edited me. It isn’t. As far as I’m concerned, if you get edits and critiques before your book comes out, you’re lucky. You’re getting every possible chance there is to catch mistakes and make it as good as it can be.
But, about editing, Spinetingler has submission guidelines posted at Spinetingler. Not every magazine or ezine posts their guidelines, which I find annoying. Those editors don’t have the right to bitch about anything they get, because they’ve left it wide open.
We’ve always had guidelines. They’ve been expanded over time to be more stringent, as situations have prompted us to add stipulations to the list to protect ourselves.
But one sure way to annoy us is to ignore them.
What are some of the things people do that make me scream?
Hard returns at the end of each sentence.(Sorry - I said paragraph, meant to say sentence.) Fuck, I hate them. Originally, my copy said, “it would be kinder to come over and shoot us.” Evilkev took that out, but I stand by it. This creates volumes of work for us, when we do edits, and when we format the ezine. Is it so hard not to hit return? Just say no people, step away from the keyboard…
People who don’t submit the release. Why do we ask for it? We’ve had someone try to sell a story to us and simultaneously sell it elsewhere, more than once. We even had a publication come back on us, pissed that we’d already published the story. That release saved our ass, because it put it squarely on the author’s shoulders – they knew they weren’t supposed to do what they did, and did it anyway and they got a bad reputation with two publications as a result, instead of us getting a bad rep.
We had someone submit recently without the release. I wrote the person back and said we couldn’t consider the story without the release. Few months ago now, still haven’t heard back. Hmm. Guess they weren’t serious.
Another thing annoys us is people using email addresses they then cancel. And then they send bitchy emails months later asking why the hell they haven’t heard anything. Of course, sent from their new email address. Which is when we forwarded all the emails we’d tried sending for months to contact them about their story…as well as the final notice that this would be our last attempt to contact them.
But – other than the people trying to sell stories simultaneously – these aren’t even things that will get you on my shit-list. What will, you ask?
One thing is how people handle rejection letters. We try to include some general notes about what went wrong in the story, in a very tactful way. I hate writing those letters - I know what it feels like to be on the other end. But writing back a few hours later, furious that we didn’t accept it or being really snippy about informing us they sold it elsewhere, so there is not something I recommend. If it was up to me, I don’t mind simultaneous submissions. We don’t pay much, writers sometimes have to wait an unreasonable amount of time for an answer, but that type of response is why we had to forbid them – and again, why we ask for the release with submission. Unless you write us and pull the story from consideration, you’ve already given us the right to publish it. Writing back snottily saying you sold it elsewhere already (as one person did) just pisses me off because I wasted time on your story that I could have spent on a story for a writer still waiting and hoping. From the writer side of the equation, that might sound draconian, but do you know there are people we included in the anthology who never even replied when we informed them they’d been selected? Some of them finally wrote when they wanted to get royalty payments and payment failed because they hadn’t informed us they’d changed their paypal account… Ugh. The headaches. Truly, no good deed goes unpunished.
So, the whole rejection response can put me over the edge. Plus, some rejected writers that I sent suggestions to responded same day with new submissions. This is NOT a good idea, people. If an editor writes with suggestions and web links to writing articles to be considered, show them the information is read and processed. When the readers saw those stories weeks later, their comments were almost the exact same as for the first story we’d rejected. Believe me, this is a way to get your name remembered and elicit a groan next time you submit. I wouldn’t even automatically reject these people, but they’re making it harder for themselves. We’re all human, and when names become familiar for the wrong reasons… well, you’re stacking the deck against yourself.
And every time it happens, I swear I’m moving to form letters that say nothing about the reason for rejection.
Those are my minor points. What’s my major piss-off?
People who blow off editing.
Bottom line is, as we’ve been working to make Spinetingler better and better and raise the quality each issue, it involves editing. And guess what? Writers are involved in their edits.
Maybe it’s my journalistic background. I remember the red pen all over copy. Actually, for me, that didn’t happen often. Sometimes, copy came back first time with only one or two typos.
I remember wondering why they didn’t just change them there. But now, I remember what I learned from correcting my mistakes.
If someone takes the time to send editing notes, you should always treat them seriously. Not just if they pay big bucks. Even if they pay nothing.
Are you serious? If you’d even ask that, can you really call yourself a writer?
At the end of the day, everything you put out for the world to see if your work, and it reflects on you. I’ve always had a bitch of a time with short stories, because I love subplots, and short stories aren’t my strength. My second book, Echoes and Dust, started life as a short story that turned into a 115,000 word book that launched a series.
In November 2004, I was trying to clear my head from writing that manuscript, and started working on some short stories. Write to Kill was one, Restoration was another. Restoration didn’t come together for me until the Spinetingler Anthology in November 2005. So, winging off a short story wasn’t routine.
But I did fling one off, Breaking The Christmas Curse. I submitted it for a contest. Didn’t think much more of it, actually. I remember I was having a horrid day, really upset about something, but I don’t remember what now. And then I got an email, telling me the story got an honourable mention in the contest.
I rushed to look and there was a typo in the first line.
Talk about embarrassing. I mean, typos happen to all of us. We all get edited. We all make stupid mistakes.
Was it the ezine’s error? No. It was mine. I was sloppy with the details and it showed.
Even in learning, I’ve had moments of frustration. Another story, I was asked to send in edits. I did and they didn’t run them. Argh. But again, it goes back to being as clean as you can with the copy you submit, making sure it’s ready when it goes in the first time – at least, as ready as possible.
But when an editor does take the time to provide feedback, it’s courtesy and professionalism to do the edits. We’ve had a few writers refuse, think the suggestions were debatable when typo corrections are not.
And those people are on my shit-list. I sent a story back once and asked the writer to go over it and correct the typos. That was it – not even structural changes, like clarifying the ending (a common one, actually). He emailed back and said no changes were needed.
Oh, silly stupid me! I mean, what was I thinking, suggesting he fix those typos? I must have been on drugs that day.
This is no different than any other career in this respect. There are learning curves. People make mistakes – get over it. I’ve screwed up, so will you. Do you give up the comedy act and run off stage crying the first time someone yells, “Boo” from the crowd? Or keep at it? That’s what tells people if you’re a pro.
I mean, if you’re going to give up on an edit when people actually want to publish you, quit now, because a lot of reviewers won’t care about your feelings.
The point is whether or not we learn from those mistakes. And how we deal with edits is part of that. If writers don’t understand the editing notes or know how to implement a suggestion, that’s what I’m here for. Each one has only to ask for more feedback or guidance. But just not doing it and sending in the story, saying, “here it is” without telling us you didn’t make the changes?
It doesn’t show a lot of respect for the editors, their time, or your own writing if you do that. If someone else spotted a weakness, you should always seriously consider it. I’ve had cases where three readers have come back, exact same comment (and one is in New York, another in Australia, another in Canada, and I’m the only one in touch with each individual and I SELDOM read submissions unless I’m doing the edits AFTER they’ve been accepted) and the writer has refused to hear it.
Man, three out of three? Hello! I’m not even saying you take every suggestion you get and implement it. But I am saying that you consider it, and if you disagree, you discuss it like a professional.
I think about editing Stuart MacBride’s story for the anthology. Hands down the most experienced writer we published in our first year, and truly, a treat to work with. A real pro. Attitude? He only knows what that means from hanging around me, because he doesn’t have one.
I could understand by the end of our first year why some publications won’t consider new writers. It’s sad. I always try to cut more slack, but it is very hard. There are only so many hours in the day. I haven’t got time to argue with people with egos that are bigger than the size of France.
I’d much rather make fun of them in a future blog post.
Okay, seriously, I’m not posting all of this to put down specific people. Examples are an amalgamation of a few writers from our first year, or apply to several people I’ve dealt with, either in my journalism days or since we started Spinetingler.
But I decided to post it, because I thought it could be helpful to some of the newer writers, and because Evil Editor inspired me.
We’re (almost) always looking for editing help. Especially with the volume of submissions going through the proverbial roof. When Tracy Sharp submitted work, we were really impressed with the caliber of her writing and her professionalism. We added her to the team. She’s one of the people that has read my unedited version of Suspicious Circumstances and provided great feedback that’s been very helpful to me.
Then MG Tarquini submitted. And I dared to have her edit something of mine. She kicked my ass. And you know what? She made me a better writer for it. So I took her stories (great one last issue, great one next issue too) and recruited her.
I’d best end there, but bottom line here is that your attitude shows whether what you’re doing is a hobby or a profession. People in the business will see that, and respond accordingly. Editors and writers should always remember, some day, the shoe may be on the other foot. Just ask authors who’ve edited anthologies…
And I decided to post this while my heart gets dragged out through my bowels by an author who felt dumping a “this is shit” letter on me was taking the easy way out. I think they want to see me cry. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow, if I stop sobbing by then.
Kitty Pictures, as promised!