Wednesday, January 11, 2012

...that is the question

Two months ago, I submitted an essay to 2 different magazines. It was about the time I spent working in a National Monument in Utah many years ago.  The piece was about  3400 words long, and I thought very good.  After I sent it off, I put it out of my mind, let it go and went on to the next project. 

A few days ago I got a response from the more literary of the two magazines.  It's a pretty small operation, so I was surprised that my cover letter was returned to me with a handwritten note upon it.  The note was in editor scrawl, and I had to work to decipher it.  I read it a few times and figured out that the editor was saying no thanks to the piece as is, but had 3 suggestions as to how to rework it.  She said she would seriously reconsider it if I resubmitted at a later date with these edits. 

So, another rejection, but one with helpful notes.  This is good.  I very much appreciate the feedback.  Someone actually read my work, and took the time to let me know how to change it, and how it could perhaps fit with what they do.  Kinda cool.

One of the suggestions was to get rid of the passive constructions in the piece.  Fine yes, I reread it and found a few (although not so many.  Hmmm?).  The other two were related.  She wanted me to pick up the pace and cut the thing in half.  What!? 

The good part is that in essence she liked my tone, and the story I had to tell.  My sense was that it just is too long for her magazine, and a bit too drawn out. So what do I do?   Rewriting this piece and resubmitting it would offer a great chance of publication. This, being one of the goals, would be a good thing.

Editing I can do, but cutting it in half!?  That would be like writing a whole new piece, and leaving out the good parts.  And I kind of like it how it is.  But does that mean I am a stubborn, unwilling writer, who is so in love with her words that critique will not be accepted?  Would another editor somewhere else find it just fine?

To edit or not to edit.  That is the question.

I can't help but think of all those Project Runway designer critiques the contestants have with Tim Gunn.  He would come in and either gasp with disgust or delight at the work in progress.  He would offer advice on how to change things around, but always state that it was the designer's choice whether to take the advice or not.  In any creative endeavour it is the same dilemma.  You can go with your creative gut and take the risks, or you can play it safe and listen to the advisers. It will either be worth the risk, or you'll be OUT.  Either way the end result is yours, and you have to be willing to stand up on stage beside it and tell the world you love what you made.

Well, I love what I made.  But will I love it more if it is published?  That might be the real question.


Kelly Hashway said...

Here's my two cents. Keep sending it out as is, but save another version and make the edits that editor suggested. Then send it back to her. It can't hurt, and editing is always a good exercise. Plus, if she took the time to ask for revisions, that's a connection you want to keep.

Good luck!

Beverly Diehl said...

Edit and save as a new version. There is no reason you can't submit a modified original to other venues.

A writer once described to my group how she basically sold the same piece of writing 6-7 times. She did some research on spiders (ugh, SO not my thing) and sold a non-fic piece to an adult nature magazine, a children's version to Ranger Rick, a short story to another venue, a longer short story to yet another, and I forget where all else. Being flexible - if you can - can only work to your advantage. If not with this piece, then with the next.

amanda said...

Thanks Kelly and Beverly! I think being flexible and working on that connection IS a good idea. So, I guess we'll see where this goes...

Anonymous said...

I like the advice you have already received.

Perhaps it is a horses for courses thing - what may suit someone else, may not suit that magazine as you rightly pointed out.

Anonymous said...

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