Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

Editorial Intrusions

By Lazette Gifford
2003,
Lazette Gifford

 

I think of myself as a writer.

And yet here I am with two editorial jobs -- one as the managing editor of Vision, and the other as the science fiction and fantasy acquisitions editor for Double Dragon Press Ebooks. Those are, however, two very different jobs under a similar title.  The first I have been doing for three years now, and the second I've just started.  I'm looking forward to the work for DDP.

Editing is very different from writing, of course.  And while I love editing my own work, that doesn't make it any easier to edit other people's material -- nor does not make me perfect at the work of editing my own stories, of course.  I study books on grammar (you can never know enough about grammar), but I have a lot still to learn.  It's lucky for everyone that I'm not a copyeditor.  I can find the big problems like paragraphs that wander off into nowhere and repetitive words, and sometimes I even catch 'they', 'their', and 'them' being used as singular pronouns.  Semicolons and colons still give me fits, but I'm catching on.

That's the sort of work I do for Vision.  I not only choose which articles will go in the issues, but I also edit the ones I get to fix problems.  After that, I send them on to a copyeditor for a final run through, and she almost always finds things that I have missed. 

I will not be editing material for DDP.  However, I will be judging if the manuscript fits what the publisher needs -- or could be easily edited to do so.  That means that manuscripts in which there are spelling errors and grammar errors right off from the start are not going to get through.  It means dull, trite stories with plot holes large enough to shove the state of Texas through are going to be rejected.

But more often than not, the first rejections will come just because the people didn't read and follow the guidelines.  I've already told people that I will send back any article submitted to Vision that doesn't have the proper heading on it -- that means both title and author's name.  The rest of the guidelines for Vision are rarely followed any better, but those two things are the only ones that I can't automatically fix with a control-a and a couple clicks of the menu.

Work for Double Dragon is going to be different. The first rule there is that if something is not submitted to guideline rules, it automatically gets rejected.

Don't start ranting about how unfair that is, or how we're going to throw away wonderful work just because... because someone couldn't bother to take the time to read the guidelines and follow a few simple rules.  And if the person can't make even that much effort to present his work to us, do we really want to work with him?

Your manuscript represents you.  It is your professional face, and the first way in which the editors meet you.  A manuscript that is not presented in a professional manner says that you are either not a professional, or, worse yet, that you are one of those people who thinks that guidelines are meant to be broken by geniuses like you.  No editor wants to take that kind of chance, and find himself saddled with some egomaniac with the manners of a warthog and the charm of a naked mole rat.

And if you are naive enough to think I'm exaggerating those qualities, you haven't yet dealt with the full spectrum of writers.  We have, after all, everything from the Gods of Grammar, who will balk at anything that isn't written straight out of the Chicago Manual of Style, to the people who will write anything, as long as it isn't coherent.  Somewhere in there we also have many really great writers.  Some of them come ready to be published, and some need just a little more work.

And that brings us to yet another of my on-line jobs -- Site Administrator for Forward Motion.  This is a writer's community with several hundred active members and over 2000 listed ones.  At that site I work with writers who are brand new, who have been writing for years without publication, and who have started their publishing careers.  Quite a few are farther along their careers, as far as publication goes, than I am.  I've learned from many of them at both sides of the path from me.

Writing and editing should not be considered opposing jobs, but many new writers do have that perception.  The editor is not your enemy.  She is a person with a job who must keep the needs of the publication as the most important consideration when looking at material.  You can make the editor your friend by following a few rules when you submit material:

  1. Edit your material to the best of your ability.
  2. Choose markets that best suit what you've written.
  3. Read the guidelines and follow them.
  4. If the guidelines say no vampire stories, don't assume the editors just haven't read a really good one like yours.
  5. Learn to let go of the story and try to see it from the editor's point of view.  If she asks for changes, it means she likes it enough to work with you to make it better.  Don't argue with the editor over stupid little changes. Save your disagreements for the big things.