Monday, May 21, 2012

Editors As A Species

  Yes, editors are human. We have families, day jobs, hobbies, and our own writing, editing, submitting and re-writing to get on with.

We did however take on the job of reviewing submissions for (in my case) anthologies and production scripts. So we don't complain. We do however read some of the most god-awful literature ever excreted from the backsides of some barely literate apes.

We don't get paid for this. In fact the last anthology I edited I personally put up the US$350 to pay our writers $25 for each successful submission. The publisher wasn't able to pay anything but I wanted quality stories, and I got them.

We don't get paid. We instead get to pore over the full range of experience and ability in the written word. We get stories that are so disparate from the guidelines we wonder if the submitter made a mistake and sent us the wrong file. We get stories in foreign languages, in unopenable file formats, in stupid fonts, in weird colours. We get stories that are incomprehensible, lacking in any form of grammar, spell or punctuation checking. We get piles and piles of complete turkey-droppings. And then...

...We find something that takes our breath away. A story we simply have to have. The story you read and it sticks with you. The story you wish you had written. The story that makes you wonder, what the hell am I doing? If there are writers out there who are this good, I may as well just pack up my pencil and go fishing instead.

Those are the ones that make it a joy to write an acceptance letter. Those are the ones that make all the soul-destroying, "please don't take it personally, but your story isn't what we are looking for", sanitised responses, when all you really want to do is email them saying, "Are you kidding me? Please never submit anything to anyone ever again, in case by some bizarre accident it accidentally gets published and the collective IQ of the world drops sharply as a result."

So like every other writer, editors go through the pangs of rejection and the joys of acceptance. There is nothing like putting together a publication of stories that are your favourites. Giving money to people for writing is the greatest feeling in the world. Their gratitude is genuine and the lessons we can provide to those who aren't there yet are sincere.

Spare a thought for the editors. That we respond at all is indication enough that not only are we human, we still have some faith in literate humanity left.


PS: I write reports for the government all day. At night I write and edit short stories, novels, audio-plays, screen-plays and the occassional offensive limerick.