Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.

- Graycie Harmon

Monday, June 7, 2010

Burnt Bridges?

I'm going to ramble a bit this morning, so sorry in advance. This pertains to the editing process.

As those who follow this blog well know, I was fortunate enough to be included in a short story anthology being arranged by my friends. The anthology is titled Unlocked, and the stories within must have something to do with a key. When to competition to be included in the anthology was announced, I whipped up a story in about two days.

My story, Her Father's Eyes, was selected to be included, something of which I am very proud. As it was an anthology, there were, of course, editors. This was my first time I've ever worked with editors and, I have to admit, it was frustrating. For them as well as myself, I'm sure.

Here is why:
They made a change - just one - that I did not agree with.

Though I may have balked, the rest was just chaff and I didn't mind the changes so much (I did sometimes question their necessity, but ultimately, it was not something I minded). However, one change they proposed not only seemed to make little sense to me, it stripped the story of my voice - it was not how I write.

Now, I do understand what they were trying to achieve with the change. I do. However, it seemed wrong to me - not true to form, if you will. Despite my trying to find a way to meet on middle ground, when they sent me final edits, they ignored my concerns and changed my changes to exactly their view (despite me changing them to something resembling middle ground during the previous round of edits). I finally had to put my foot down and explain to them on no uncertain terms why I felt the changes were 'not true to form' and I requested that they change it back.

They did.

Now here is the question that's been bugging me; have I burnt my bridges?

I greatly respect the people editing the anthology, and I am so incredibly grateful for this chance to strut my stuff, as it were. I understand how frustrating it is for someone to appear to be "not listening," since that's exactly how I felt about the editors insisting on the one change I did not agree with. I think they are great editors, and though I felt a little bullied, and I am certain that they meant well (of course they did.... who would want to attach their names to something that was second rate?).

I asked for advice. One piece of advice I received was thus:

'Don't get too proud of your style, it's still developing.'

Excellent advice, actually. Though not the reassurance I was looking for, it is true. My style is still developing, as is the styles of every other author that continues to write. The truth of the matter is, I can be overly prideful, and incredibly stubborn when I set my mind to something. It's a fault. So was I too stubborn?

Another piece of advice read:
'Ultimately, this is your work, and the decision falls to you as to how you wish to present it.'

This is also excellent advice. Though my style may be still developing, at the moment, this is the way I write. The changes proposed by the editors would have stripped that away. I would be misrepresented, essentially, to anyone who was reading the anthology. Should an agent read the story (hypothetically, of course) and dislike the voice, I'd have missed my chance. Should they love it, they'd find my other stuff terribly disappointing.

The truth is, I would much rather be disliked while being me, then liked trying to be someone else.

Why do people write? It's different for everyone. For me, it stems from a desire to be heard. Most of my life, I was ignored. Anything I said was dismissed without thought because I was too young/ I was a girl/ I was too odd/ I had an accent/ insert other unfounded reason here. When people read my writing, they are reading my words, hearing my voice. So yes, I would be protective of my style (full psycho-analysis should only be attempted by a professional... perhaps one day I'll see one).

Was I too protective? Do the editors hate me now? I know they are frustrated. They accidentally left in some notes meant only for each other (oops). But I was frustrated as well. I was also not being listened to. I had to insist before I was heard. I tried to do it as nicely as possible.

After having spoken to others in my immediate circle, I am certain that I made the right decision. The editors, obviously, disagree. So, have I made enemies of good people because of my insistence? Did I burn my bridges?

Does anyone else out there have stories of not seeing eye to eye with their editors? I'd love to hear them.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Sonia. You can have no idea how proud of you I am! It is so hard to stand firm, especially when older, more experienced writers are telling you you're wrong. And editors are intimidating, no matter how nice they are--and I know for a fact your editors are very nice.

Yes, your style is still developing. That doesn't mean you should give in every time someone tells you you've done something wrong. That just means you should be more amenable to change, more willing to bend. And it sounds like you are.

You made a very valid point. If the story in Unlocked doesn't reflect you, it's misleading to your readers.

As for burnt bridges, only time will tell.


kgborland23 said...

Hey S.m.,

I've had two experiences with editors: Unlocked & a collaborative story. Blue Moon was different from Unlocked in the fact that the person who was editting the collaborative was trying to make the story (that numerous authors were contributing to) her voice only. I wasn't having that. This was earlier than unlocked so obviously my style/voice hasn't fully developed either but I refused to give into her. This almost backfired. She threatened to kick me out of the project and I almost caved but people starting tell her that MY section was better than the other sections. This she didn't like either so everyones sections had to be put back in place as their own voice.

Though the same event could've had a VERY different outcome as to the fact that, I could've easily been kicked out of the project. You take a giant leap of faith if you question or confront your editors, they can go either way.

Now Unlocked, I agreed with everything the editors brought forth. I promise they meant well with all their corrections and probably aren't as angry as you believe to be as long as you gave a legitimate reason why you didn't want it changed they probably are okay with it.


S.M. Carrière said...

Hey Kyle!

Thanks so much for your input. Many views help keep me in perspective!

I do know that they meant well, so I'm not offended... and I hope my reason was legit!

I know I took an enormous leap of faith, and I'm very grateful that they didn't kick me out. I was worried about that a little bit.

The lady for Blue Moon sounds like a nightmare! Luckily your stuff was exceptional!

S.M. Carrière said...

Thank-you so much Jaimey!

(Sorry this is coming a little late, there seems to have been a glitch in the system and your comment didn't pop up until today.)

It was a little scary, though it wasn't really a 'right vs. wrong' scenario. It was more of a 'if you do it like this you'll achieve this vs. but then I'll lose this' sort of scenario.

Thanks so much for your kind words! Great big cyber hugs!