|The author, Dane F. Baylis|
PAST WISDOM, PRESENT REALITY, FUTURE SENSE
NOT EVERYTHING WE DO IS THE WAY IT SHOULD BE!
Father's Day. So I spent part of the day cleaning out the office/studio, clearing out a couple of month's worth of detritus - extra copies of my own stuff, things given to me for consideration or review. Then I spent a couple of hours selecting and editing four poems for submission to a Southern California journal, ASKEW. It was one of those days when something re-surfaced that caught my attention a while back and triggered a visceral reaction.
It's simple enough, really. A quote that I found, dating from the early twentieth century, that has lost none of its impact or sense. Something said by a writer and intended for writers.
T. S. Eliot was once asked for his reaction to an editor who took exception to his work. Eliot commented, "Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers." In the present atmosphere of backlash against the traditional houses and the editors who work for them, or those that work as reviewers for magazines and newspapers, I found the quote timeless. So many writers today forego the services of editors in any capacity, whether they provide their services professionally, or as a good friend who offers to, "Give it a look".
Granted, I have dealt with an editor or two who I felt was overstepping their bounds and changing my voice and style to suit their personal vision of a particular piece. These were generally members of the guild who had not attained the kind of recognition for their own work they thought they deserved and felt, if I could just see my way to make the suggested changes, my submission would be more representative of their publication. There were times I could see the benefit, mostly when the requests involved stretching my skills and vision that extra bit I had just been too lazy to do on my own. Then there were other times when the changes would have taken the work some place I never would have gone.
I have also dealt with editors who have helped to open my eyes and make corrections that just made damned good sense. (I was lucky enough to marry one of these.) Why then, in the tremendously competitive market that publishing has become, are so many writers NOT availing themselves of the talents of good editors? I understand the cost factor for some of it, though I have seen some incredibly "reasonable" rates being offered! Look, let's be realistic here. Yes, you might get it right as far as grammar and spelling; you might even be able to follow a style manual and get the story structure correct, but, when it comes down to it, we're writers and that doesn't always translate as "marketable".
Until you have learned all the ins and outs of this craft, why wouldn't you want all the help you could muster in order to stand out from the crowd? Just because you can write the story down doesn't imply you can do it with the kind of tension and craft that turns it into a good read. That's what editors are for, taking that wart-covered troll you put between two covers and giving it literary plastic surgery to turn it into the most captivating thing a reader has ever encountered.
This can be bought and paid for or obtained in the cozy confines of a writers group. Everyone reads everyone's work and makes suggestions. You take what you feel is valid and leave the rest on the table. Tolkien did it that way, as did Kerouac, and Faulkner, and Fitzgerald, and...You get the drift, right?
Sure, not everyone who reads and comments on your baby is going to "get it". But then, as was mentioned in Eliot's quote, you can deal with the some or end up lumped in with the most.
Just a helpful hint from your Uncle Dane.
Meanwhile...live, love, write.
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Dane F. Baylis