This is the funny thing about the story I just had published, particularly that it ended up being my proverbial toe-dip into the deep end of writing for profit: I really hated The Book of Autumn when I first wrote it. I quite literally wrote it because it was stuck in my head, like a ping pong ball lodged in a water pipe, and the only way for me to be able to write a story that I actually wanted to write was to get TBoA out on paper first. It started out as about 5K words of rushed, shitty prose with no story arc to speak of, which I stuck in my backpack and did my best to ignore for the next year while I spent my limited undergrad free time on stories that I actually, you know, liked. But the story refused to go away, and I eventually gave in and typed it up, adding and correcting and smoothing along the way. At which point I read it over and decided that I still hated that story, because it just wouldn’t cooperate with me.
I ended up sending the story off to my dear friend Isaac (who was my Bridesman at my wedding, incidentally) and whined at him, “I hate this story, it doesn’t work, what the hell is wrong with it.” And Isaac, superhero that he is, figured out a lot of the fixes I needed to make to transform TBoA into something readable and interesting that I actually started liking, just a little. Isaac also, it should be noted, came up with the title for the story. Because once it was cleaned up and ready to be sent out into the big, scary world of the slush pile, I realized that “Story I Hate” was probably not a suitable title.
At the time I sent TBoA to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, it was still the something of the unloved child out of the three stories I was attempting to find homes for. (It should be noted that the other two are, at this time, still homeless.) Scott e-mailed me and asked me if I could fix up the story’s ending, because it didn’t quite work for him. I gave it my best shot, and in the process, it was like something snapped into focus. I made some little tweak, and BAM. I didn’t hate the story any more, or resent it for being difficult. In fact, I really, really loved it.
Which I think really goes to show the sort of super powers a good editor has.
I think one of my biggest failings as a writer right now is that when something in one of my stories doesn’t quite work, I can’t figure out why – if I notice at all. I’ve gotten a lot of rejections in the recent past that read something like, “This is a great story, but something just doesn’t quite work for me.” While I take the compliment for what it is, it also makes me a little crazy, because if someone could just tell me why something doesn’t work, I could fix it. I understand that most editors are way too busy to spend time on a story that’s got even a little something broken in it, and I certainly don’t expect one to when he or she is wading through a pile of unsolicited stories. But that’s why I’m starting to sound just a little fangirlish about Scott – he took the time, he gave me a chance, and he used his magical editor powers to point out the last element that needed to be tweaked into place to turn my story into something I could truly love.
Oh, and then he gave me money for it.
If there is a Scott Andrews fan club, I would like to join it. If not, maybe I should just start one myself.