Thursday, September 21, 2006

Is changing good?

In an earlier post I mentioned getting a rejection notice with critiques and the opportunity to resubmit. After re-reading the letter I started to think there was a slight chance that this wasn't something they did for everybody. That's when I decided I should get my butt in gear.
Once I read through the critiques and then back through my story, I became a little frustrated.
A lot of the suggestions were good and I immediately realized that they were valid points. I struggled with how to fix them but I think in the end I did okay.
There were a few things that I didn't understand. One of the things that I think makes the story truly unique is one of the things that they seemed to not like. I was really worried about what to do.
I didn't want to change it and not because I refuse to be wrong. The other suggestion were great suggestions and I went a long with them happily. I know that I'm not a great writer and even if I was, nothing is going to be flawless. Writing can always be improved on is some way. I know this.
My reason for not wanting to change it is that I really wanted the story to be funny and unusual. I think the character's ridiculous thoughts make the story unique but the critique mentioned focusing on a different train of thought.
I wanted to explain why I didn't change it in my cover letter but I also didn't want to seem defensive.
Getting published would be wonderful but I can't talk myself into changing what I love best about a story just to see it in print.
Who knows? Maybe I read way too much into the comment. Maybe they won't even notice that I didn't fix it. Maybe they send everyone these letters to make them feel special and I'm stressing over nothing as usual.
Oh well, I did the best I could and what I thought was best. And now if this story doesn't get published I can make a huge post about how I was robbed of being published because I didn't sell out to the man!

Just saw: Little Miss Sunshine
Just watched: Dancing with the Stars ( what did I tell you about me and cheesy dancing?)

1 comment:

D.B. Echo said...

Sometimes, sometimes not. Editors laugh about writers who agonize and fight over every comma placement. But there comes a point where you are making fundamental changes to the tone and structure of the story.

Two examples from the world of poetry:

In high school I had a friend who had a brother who had legs that were twisted and bowed, but otherwise had no physical or mental disabilities. He was infatuated with a girl who wanted nothing to do with him. One morning he stole his father's shotgun, walked into a field, and killed himself.

My sister wrote a poem about him - well, inspired by him; there was nothing that would directly identify him. One of the lines was

had even God done you wrong?

Meaning, "Everyone else has treated you like crap, was God in on it, too?" The editor decided he didn't like the meter, and swapped two of the words for a better rhythm:

had God even done you wrong?

Which now meant, "Are you questioning God's plan for you by bemoaning that fact that He has granted you two twisted and deformed legs?" A minor change, but one that totally changed the meaning of the line.

I wrote a poem for a college magazine. It was an E.E. Cummings pastiche called "the Mayflies", which used capitalization and repeated self-reference to give a sense of inflated self-importance among transient, ephemeral beings. the last three lines were

and those that come after Us
will remember Us
as We recall the hollow husks that were Us yesterday.

The advisor for our "literary magazine" got ahold of my poem and changed every line of it - all seven of them - and changed everything. She "corrected" my capitalization errors. She crossed out lines and replaced them with her own. She reduced the last three lines to "We remember our dead." - the exact opposite of what I said. But, I sputtered, didn't she understand? Hadn't she ever seen Mayflies swarming around a light in the summer, all full of life, doing the things that are the most important things in the world to them, oblivious to the empty husks of yesterday's dead Mayflies around them (and, I have recently learned, the shed skins of their own growth - Mayflies molt several times in the course of their life-cycle.)

And she looked at me and said "What is a Mayfly, anyway?"

I said "Never mind," took back my poem, and walked away.

So. Some suggestions are helpful. Some are not. And some are just the result of somebody completely not getting it. You have to know when to thank them and take their advice, and know when to thank them and walk away.