When I was told that my short story for a steam-punk anthology – details to follow (sometime) – had been accepted, I was ecstatic. It was how I imagine I’ll react when I win the lottery. Yes, I was that pleased. Might need oxygen if I ever get a book published!
I’ve never had anything printed, other than a couple of letters to SFX Magazine, so you can imagine how wonderful I thought this was.
And it is…
Then, the editors get in touch.
And here is the thing, if you find yourself starting out like me and you get to this stage, take it as it is, a learning experience. It is not criticism. It is priceless advice that you’d normally have to pay for.
My POV (point of view) had problems they said. But they liked it.
I tweaked it.
“You still have POV issues. But we like it!”
I tweaked it.
“You’re not getting us are you? We still like it.”
At this point, one of the editors who is currently very busy promoting her brand new book, took the time to point out the obvious to me. Like I say, you cannot buy that kind of tuition. Added to that, genuine kindness is not something to be sniffed at.
I’ve done a few re-writes now, of a 7,500 word short story. Never anything major, other than the POV. Yes, of course, a blind man cannot see the moonlight glistening off of an automaton! Arghhhhh – it’s obvious.
Other lessons learnt? Don’t assume ‘Word’ knows more about punctuation than you.
Also, get someone to proofread for you. After the ‘who knows how many’ times you’ve read it, you miss the most obvious. You also don’t see ‘meanings’ in your sentences. You intend the story to go one way and then someone else reads it and says. “but that is possibly offensive”. If you are like me, you’ll go “Huh? What are they on about?” Then you read it again and it’s a “Oh, but I didn’t mean that – really, I didn’t.”
All this comes back to editing. Writing is only part of the job. I see this fully now. Joanne Hall, who is the author of the lovely book photographed below, is the author busily promoting her work but kind enough to spare a thought for the lame duck trying his luck at a story (I figure the least I can do is show her book here!). Roz Clarke is her partner in crime, who has the patience of a saint.
I’ve learnt so much and hopefully the finished story will see the light of day. If you find yourself in this very lucky position, remember it is not criticism to be put on the right track or have your mistakes pointed out. It’s the writing equivalent of two fairy godmother’s, waving their wands, and then, magical red lines appear over your work. Embrace this, learn from it, and hopefully both you and I, will not repeat the same mistakes again.