This is something I am still learning about in the publishing world: Editors. I'm fortunate enough to have had my first experience be a good one. But as I continue to venture out into the publishing world, I know that my experiences (I use the plural hopefully) will have varied results.
I just reviewed the last (yay!) edited version of my story for Hawaii Women's Journal and I have to the say it was kind of a grueling process. For all of us. But it wasn't bad.
When I write, I'm not necessarily thinking about the editor whose desk the story might fall upon or if I'm lucky, the reader who found in a literary journal; I'm thinking about the individual words, the rhythm they create when the sentence is completed. Then I think: "Is this sentence necessary to the plot?" or "Is this paragraph here because I think it's pretty or because it serves the story?" It's recently occurred to me that when I write, I'm living in a fantasy world and it's the job of the editor to bring the me back down to reality. Truth be told, reality isn't a bad place to be--it's the best of both worlds, you learn how to retain the prettiness of your language and you make it serve your story in ways you might not have thought possible.
I admit that in the beginning, I looked at the changes they wanted and I wondered, do they want this story or are they asking me to create something completely new using the old paragraphs as a skeleton that has the shape of what the story should resemble but fuller, or thinner. But as I started to make the changes, I began to look at my story, one that I love deeply, in a new way. It was accepted for publication at a time when I wanted to be done with it, to put to bed and move on to something new, like my novel. But as I looked at what they wanted, and thought about what I wanted the story to really be, more words poured out of me and at the end, the story was longer than the 5,000 word limit that had been part of the submission guidelines. And you know what? We all agreed in the end that with some changes here and there, I had written something that was better than the original.
Because of my editors and my own work, a story that used to feel old and tired found new life. This morning my students and I had a short Meeting for Worship. I'm not the most religious person, I'm not even that spiritual, but I love this time of week. It's sometimes silent but today we choose to listen to some soothing music--the music that inspired the story--and in that time when I had just my thoughts and the music in the background, I felt the urge to write another sentence for the HWJ story. It's too late to add it, maybe one days when I publish a story collection I'll find a way to sneak it in. For now, I'll just post it here.
"During their time apart she would ease her loneliness by listening to a playlist that was comprised only of music he had written. The peaks and valleys of the melodies made her wonder which song had been written with her in mind. She knew the songs by heart as if they had lyrics to accompany the rhythmic beating of the drums. As she listened, her fingers moved as if she were the one plucking the instrument. She could anticipate the allegros, the lentos, the fortes, with ease, but when it came time to anticipate the man she loved, she felt tone deaf, and for that there was no cure."
UPDATE: This last sentence is in the final story!