Tag Archives: Robert A. Heinlein

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.

WARNING!  WARNING!  DANGER, Will Robinson!

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.

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