When does the editing end???

by Lillian Csernica on March 5, 2013

While I’m in the process of editing my novel, my short story inventory is out to market.  I am fortunate in that the rejections I get tend to include personal comments on what the editor(s) liked and what part(s) of the story did not work.  Then comes the hard part.  Do I rush off to rewrite the story?  Or do I keep the faith and try again with another market?

Heinlein said, “You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.”

So I had a story come back last week from a team of editors.  One of them liked the story enough to make specific fix-it comments.  The main editorial voice of the rejection slip encouraged me to rework the story and possibly resubmit it.  But I like this particular story.  Parts of it are really precious to me.


Well, boys and girls?  What do you do when you’re too attached to part of your writing and that part of your writing is getting in the way of making a sale?

You murder your darlings.  That’s right.  Cut out those bits NOW.

I cut that story down from five thousand words to thirty-three thousand.  That’s six, count ’em, SIX, pages.  How did I do it?  I eliminated one character, dumped some material that slowed down the opening, got the story moving faster, and put the necessary exposition back in a more dramatic context.

I couldn’t have done that if my ego meant more to me than being a better writer, more than taking advantage of the opportunity being offered by the editor who liked my story enough to speak up in favor of it provided I made the necessary changes.  That story, at its new length with a much-improved title, is on its way back to those editors.  Cross your fingers for me.  Hope I did what they thought I should do the way they thought I should do it.  The one big danger of a rewrite request is the possibility of messing up something the editor liked.

So when does the editing end?  Maybe once the short story is sold.  With a novel, once you’ve made the sale and your ms is in the hands of that editor, a whole new cycle of editing begins.

Right now I’ve got another short story sitting here.  The last three rejection slips add up to a pattern of editorial feedback.  Time to get out the red pen and murder my darlings.



Filed under fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Writing

7 responses to “When does the editing end???

  1. robbear13

    The editing is done when you’re finished murdering your beloved,and when you finish playing with it. Big edits come fairly easily (sometimes), but sometimes I cannot stop fiddling with what I wrote.

    Best wishes on the project.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting
    Life in the Urban Forest (poetry)


    • Hey, Rob! I know what you mean about the bits that seem to demand more tinkering. The rhythm isn’t right yet, or the sentence is too wordy, or something. Thank you for your good wishes, and the same to you!


  2. rebeccadouglass

    Right on! (And write on!). Just curious–who’s publishing shorts these days? I don’t see much of that in the sorts of magazines that go in and out at the library (nor in the science journals we get at our house, LOL). I know, I could go pick up the Writer’s Market and take a look. Haven’t done that for years, because no one seemed to want humor.


  3. Hi, Rebecca! Most of the markets I send stories to are online, both magazines and anthologies. Some also bring out print editions, some don’t. Humor is in high demand, from what I’ve read in the guidelines, but bear in mind I keep to the fantasy/dark fantasy/historical markets. Re Writer’s Market, I found that to be useful as a reference guide, Trouble is, by the time it comes out in print, half of the information is obsolete. Editors move on, addresses change, etc.


  4. My fingers are crossed for you.


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