Friday, February 5, 2010
Advice for Replying to Editors
Advice about how best to reply to an editor depends upon whether you're accepted.
If you're not, the most helpful advice would be--don't reply. Reflect.
But if you simply must (a fruitless move since it's likely to do nothing more than depress an editor), here's what I'd say: (1) be positive, (2) be understanding, and (3) be cool.
It's happened to me: an editor explains why she's passing on a story. Once, a magazine liked my first submission but wanted me to either lengthen it or send something longer. I sent something longer. It wasn't taken. The worst thing I could've done at that point was reply. The best thing, when rejected, is to reflect. To revise. In my revision, published as "The Arsonist" last year in SLAB, I clarified that the first-person narrator was embodying the arsonist. I also mentioned in cover letters that any perceived p.o.v. shifts were intentional. It worked.
Again, if you do reply, be positive ("I really appreciate your feedback"), understanding ("with 100,000,000 submissions a month and only 0.75 acceptances a year..."), and be cool ("best of luck to your journal; I love your stuff"). Still, I'm not convinced that it's worth it to almost ever reply to a rejection. Just get back to an equilibrium, to an emotional state that vitalizes you creatively--maybe through exercise (practicing kung fu and working my left hook on a bag help for me)--and write.
Now, if you're getting something published (congrats!), an editor might email you an edited version of your writing for you to look at. Edits are highlighted, say, in red. Do you approve?
If the edits are line edits, say adding a comma here or maybe changing a phrase there, approve them. You might be happy, later in life, that you did.
It's tempting sometimes to say, "You're killing my voice" or get carried away with defending artistic integrity. I recommend reflecting first. It's extremely difficult for anyone to get published. Once you get something in, go with it. The editor is your ally, and comments given reflect time invested in understanding and trying to invigorate your writing.
Of course, if an editorial suggestion isn't working, wait a little while before responding. A day or two, perhaps. Then craft a carefully worded email that, above all, makes you seem like a nice person to work with. The world can always use another nice person.
I like to remember something Socrates is always saying to Plato in various dialogues and in different ways; it's a foundational premise to put logical investigations into perspective. To summarize ... "Any amount of time we're here is negligible in the context of deep time." Take "We" to mean anything you like--an individual, a species.
I've already expressed my belief that literary journals are cultural bulwarks in the spreading US-driven Television Culture. Works of art justify living. Still, this metaphysical viewpoint reassures me that a comma here, or even a phrase there, or even major revisions, usually aren't worth fighting for.
Emotional balance and harmony ... are.
(Justin's novel Ash Dogs was a First Novel Finalist in the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. He lives in Xinzheng City, in the Henan province of China, and studies the syncretism of fiction writing and kung fu.)
Posted by justin nicholes at 10:52 PM