Editors

A magazine asked for editors on Twitter, and several people passed it on. Great thing about Twitter – I have food for thought.

Requirements include excellent language and grammar skills, which makes sense. How does one prove this on a resume? I bet prior editing experience would be good. What else? If you have no experience, how would you get there?

I have a friend whose grammar is stellar. She always corrects my Midwestern turns of phrase which leaves prepositions at the end. While I have some quirks, my grammar isn’t horrible. That said, I couldn’t prove it on a resume. Gee, I’ve had more calculus classes than most English majors think exist, but not a single literature course in college. Rhetoric fulfilled a requirement; we never talked about how to use the language. Somehow I ended up a writer anyway. Not that being a writer necessarily means great grammar or spelling or even good use of language. It helps. It separates the mediocre from the good and the great.

That still leaves me with how I’d prove it on a resume. I think the short answer is, I can’t.

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Editing

Every writer needs an editor. It’s not about how technically correct the writing is. It isn’t even about how great the story is.

A writer needs someone to look over the work. How many times have I read the big authors talking about how their spouses read over what they wrote for the day? So many talk about the editors of the old days who worked with writers to improve their works.

I listened to an author speak about a year ago, and one of her classmates from her MFA program read everything she wrote. It seems a natural pairing, an editor and a writer – even if the editor in question has no training.

Why? Well, no matter how many times I look at a manuscript, there always seems to be something I miss. Too close is usually the reason. I think that’s true of many of us, though all writers get to different points on their own before enlisting outside help.

But I think just about every writer I know does enlist outside help, an editor or whomever, at some point.

Literary Madness

One great thing about a network of writer friends is I get random calls about things if they think I might be interested.

Yesterday the news was about a bunch of literary editors coming to Iowa City. The newspaper article was a bit misleading, but it was still interesting to go. I’m not sure how much I learned just yet, but I enjoyed chatting with the editors of various journals like The Missouri Review. I bought a couple, and can’t wait to read them.

Perhaps I’ll even submit to them soon.

What Not to Write

In trying to find that perfect idea, there are often things that stick out – that have been done before and catch a writer’s attention. I wonder sometimes if a lot of us, when starting out, haven’t put enough time and thought into making up our own worlds, so we jump off from someone else’s.

In writing books, they sometimes mention ‘red-flags’ that editors have just gotten sick of seeing. It isn’t to say those topics aren’t or haven’t been done well, only that they’ve been done so often (and so often badly) that you have to have a stellar manuscript to make it past the first page, or even the first paragraph. A good thing to remember is an editor only has so much time; they’ve been inundated with lame attempts at the same topics- sprinkled liberally, annoyingly with adverbs, containing cliches by the dozen, and descriptively painting details of a world for the first 21 pages. No wonder they have red-flag lists.

Here’s an example from the online science fiction magazine, Strange Horizons. My friends discussed it (writers discussing writing? oh my!) and it amused us. I like the organization of this list. I will admit to working on something similar to one of the items, but I’m hoping, of course, that it works! Always something to consider, especially when those rejections start pouring in…

Excerpt:

10. Someone calls technical support; wacky hijinx ensue.

  1. Someone calls technical support for a magical item.
  2. Someone calls technical support for a piece of advanced technology.
  3. The title of the story is 1-800-SOMETHING-CUTE.

19. Some characters are in favor of immersive VR, while others are opposed to it because it’s not natural; they spend most of the story’s length rehashing common arguments on both sides. (Full disclosure: one of our editors once wrote a story like this. It hasn’t found a publisher yet, for some reason.)

28. Strange and mysterious things keep happening. And keep happening. And keep happening. For over half the story. Relentlessly. Without even a hint of explanation.

  1. The protagonist is surrounded by people who know the explanation but refuse to give it.