Reminder: Speculative Fiction Editors Interviewed at Clarkesworld Magazine

As promised, a reminder to go read Part 2 of “Long Before They Were Read: Speculative Fiction Book Editors Speak Out” by Jeremy L. C. Jones at Clarkesworld Magazine.

Slow openings, rushed endings, point of view shifts, gaps in logic, over-blown language, book editors see it all—even in manuscripts they’ve bought from masters in the field.  They also see manuscripts that need little or no work, manuscripts that make them jump up and down, and manuscripts stacked high enough to build bunkers with.

Some of it will not be news to anyone who has been writing for any length of time, but it really doesn’t hurt to hear it again. I will freely admit that reading these interviews has me almost frantic to go back and start revising my WIP, even though I’m still working on the first draft. I know some of the mistakes I make when I’m just working to get the words down. As I read back through (I know, breaking the cardinal rule of not revising while writing. But I love tinkering with words, it’s so hard to resist) I’ll immediately think of a better way to phrase something, leaving me with the immortal question, “What was I THINKING???”

Here are a couple of my problems that I know of right off the bat, but luckily are fairly easy to fix:

1. Commas. I overuse commas like nobody’s business. You’d think Macy’s had a sale on them.

2. Adverbs. I periodically run the “Find” function on “ly” just to see how many I’ve used and which ones need to go away. Sometimes I let them stay for awhile to try to prove themselves worthy, but a second pass through usually leads to a more liberal use of the ‘delete’ key.

Here’s an amusing response from Philip Athans at Wizards of the Coast to the question, “If you could rule the world of book publishing, what would you change?”

Athans: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the publishing business, really, that a top-to-bottom, exhaustive, total reorganization won’t fix. The number of things that happen in this business every day that are based on “well, we all know it’s stupid, but we’ve always done it that way,” would blow your mind.

9 thoughts on “Reminder: Speculative Fiction Editors Interviewed at Clarkesworld Magazine

  1. That quote from Athans is friggin hilarious!

    Try to resist the urge to revise. I learned that the hard way with PORTRAITS. Endlessly revising a first chapter before moving on… only to end up deleting the whole chapter later on! gah!


  2. Wasn’t that a hoot? I think I love him 😉

    Argh, yeah, I hadn’t thought about the chance that the whole thing might go out the window later anyway! Good point. I will keep that in mind.


    1. such good advice, Gypsy. Any work of art is going to look different when you step back and consider it in entirety, so why make yourself nuts over one portion before you’ve completed the others?


      1. Oh yes, I’m sure. But still it’s hard to resist fixing a really awkward phrase. I read back over bits of the story to remind myself of where I was going from one working session to the next, and often find things that are just horrible. I’m not doing a hard re-write, but when I find a really ugly sentence I can almost always instantly find a much better way to say it. I hear it in my head as I’m reading it, and wonder how I came up with such an awful sentence to begin with!


      2. oh, awkward sentences, clunky syntax – that’s another thing entirely. I always fix that stuff when I am stalled for content, but I try to resist much editing of content until I have some kind of roughly, vaguely finished product, b/c as Gypsy sez, you might junk the whole section OR you may add something later on that renders a “misfit” paragraph/section/chapter not only necessary, but useful. I don’t write much fiction these days, but for essays, lesson plans, lectures, and the like, I put that tentative stuff in italics, or a different font, to remind me that I might want to save it, I might want to junk it, or I might want to edit it later.


  3. Athens’ quote is applicable to ALL of organized business. I live it everyday, and if the one person who speaks out to change it isn’t the highest ranking suit in the room it is never, ever heard. (kind of like if an execuive shouts alone in a forest does s/he really make a sound?)

    And I concur with DD ~ I even find myself wanting to edit my blog posts after they go up. The pull to tweak is…. just…. too…. strong.


  4. Or if someone makes a good suggestion, they wait until everyone forgets about it, then float it themselves to get the credit.

    Re: tweaking posts: The minute you hit “submit” you see every typo, too! 😉


  5. ” if someone makes a good suggestion, they wait until everyone forgets about it, then float it themselves to get the credit.”

    I was talking to a neighbor who teaches communications at the University, and we both agreed that this is why we nag our students to speak up in class, in addition to their written work: I tell them that my fondest hope for each of them is that s/he is not only good at his or her job, BUT equally good at TAKING CREDIT for it before somebody else snakes in and does so!


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