Monday, August 22, 2011

IN PRAISE OF GOOD EDITORS.

By Janet Fogg and Margaret Yang

My friend Margaret Yang is on an endless quest for the perfect piece of key lime pie. When she pauses in that ever-so-difficult journey she writes science fiction and fantasy, sometimes alone and sometimes under the pseudonym of M.H. Mead, the shared pen name of Margaret and co-writer Harry R. Campion, who occasionally share a brain.

Today, it’s my pleasure to welcome Margaret to Chiseled in Rock to share a short story about a short story with a happy ending.


Margaret…

I thought it would be an easy sell.

When I wrote “The Last Cyborg” I knew it was better than any of my previous short fiction. Stakes, plot, characterization, dialog and theme fit together perfectly. The story worked. Plus, it was 4000 words, fitting into the required length for many magazines.

So I sent it out. And when it came back, I sent it out again. And again. Most of the responses were valentine rejections, where the editor said kind things and asked to see whatever I wrote next. But no editor gave specific suggestions for revision and no editor bought it. After more than ten valentines, I put “The Last Cyborg” in a drawer and forgot about it.

A year later, I came across an open call for an anthology called “Last Contact.” I hadn’t heard of the editor or the anthology, so I googled until I found editor Steve Ramey’s blog. He seemed smart and competent. Feeling I had nothing to lose, I sent it to him and forgot about it once again.

Steve Ramey’s initial response was neither an acceptance nor a rejection. “Oh, dear Deity,” he wrote. “There is so much wonderful here, but it’s ordered all wrong.” He offered to look at the story again if I would do significant rewrites, which he spelled out in a half page letter. But even if I followed his revision suggestions exactly, he couldn’t guarantee he’d buy the story. Plus, he’d need the new version in a few weeks.

I cycled rapidly through the five stages of grief: denial (my prose is perfect!), anger (how dare he?), bargaining (I’ll change X, but not Y), depression (man, I must really suck), acceptance. I looked at the revision suggestions again and decided that they made perfect sense. Even if Steve did not buy my story for the Last Contact anthology, the result would be a much stronger story—a story that I could possibly sell elsewhere.

All my other writing got shoved aside as I raced through the rewrite. I threw the new version at my beta readers, begging for a quick turn around. When they gave the thumbs up, I resubmitted “The Last Cyborg.” This time, I didn’t forget about it. This time, I thought of nothing else as I stalked my email inbox.

A month later, I heard back. My story would be in the "Last Contact" anthology! Not only that, but the anthology included a story by one of my heroes, Robert J. Sawyer.

Steve’s rewrite suggestions were so clear, so sensible, that it was easy to make the changes. More importantly, the new version of “The Last Cyborg” is a story that I’m much, much happier with. A good editor, with a good eye and clear suggestions, made all the difference.

Truly a happy ending! Thank you, Margaret!

The link to the anthology
Triangulation: Last Contact, which includes Margaret’s story “The Last Cyborg” is http://amzn.to/pC8CfK.

M.H. Mead’s SF novel,
Fate’s Mirror, is now available in print and ebook at http://amzn.to/qsRLIU, and you can find out more about Margaret and her writing at http://www.yangandcampion.com/.

Oh, and if you have a lead on some truly killer key lime pie, you know who to contact…

12 comments:

Chiseled in Rock said...

Why is everybody so picky about key lime pie? And why would it be so hard to make...as opposed to coconut cream?

Anyway, I've always found Marie Callender's key lime pie to be of high quality.

Gusto

Giles Hash said...

Key lime shouldn't be too hard to make, even in Colorado.

I look forward to the day where I have an editor! I'm working toward that. And I'm sure I'll have the same reaction to their notes on revisions I should make. But that's part of the writing life, yes? :D

Peg Brantley said...

Margaret, congratulations on that sale!

I love your grief cycle and hope to work with an editor like Steve.

Shannon said...

Margaret, you are a personification of Winston's quote: Never, never, never give up. Inspiring story!

Author Guy said...

Steve and the Triangulations team are very good like that. I submitted a story too, which they didn't like, but I didn't do any rewrites. I'll use it eventually. I love the PARSEC contest, they always have such great themes that give me good story ideas.

Margaret Yang said...

@Gusto Dave,

Looking for the "perfect" key lime pie means I have to try every key lime pie in the world, right?

So, really, my quest is just an excuse to eat more pie.

TheaH said...

I love it when an editor will take the time to work with me. I know how busy they are and really appreciate them taking the time to make the story better. I always have those same thoughts, but when I can get some distance and be objective, I often see they are right.

Congrats. Robert J Sawyer, indeed! Whoo Hoo!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Margaret, the key lime pie at Sea Watch Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale should be added to your TBT (to be tasted) list.

As far as editors are concerned, I consider them right up there on the pedestal with librarians. Love 'em.

Marlena Cassidy said...

Oh Margaret, I'm so jealous you managed to find an editor who was willing to guide you through edits! I want one like that!

But no really, I'm glad you had the opportunity to work with him and improve your writing, never mind getting published! Congratulations are in order1

Bronwyn Green said...

I would be lost without my editors. Sometimes, they see the story from a completely different vantage point, and we need to trust them to guide us up that slope.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful happy ending! Of the story about your story, I especially loved the grief analogy! Most of us can relate! Keep up the good work. Enjoy the momentum! Karen Lin

fpdorchak said...

Congratulations, Margaret! Way to blast past those Terminators! Do we go with YOU if we want to live?

Write (and eat) on! :-]