Kiss my !X@$**! Obligations of the Editor to Contributor
|Title:||Kiss my !X@$**! Obligations of the Editor to Contributor|
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Kiss my !X@$**! Obligations of the Editor to Contributor is a 1985 essay by Cynthia Lockwood.
It was printed in the zine Blue Pencil #2.
Some Topics Discussed
From the Essay
Now let's see, doesn't obligate mean I have to? Right. I have problems with "have to", let's try should and could instead. As for KISS MY #@$**!, I might think it at you real hard, but I'd never, or almost never say it to a contributor — you guys are much too hard to drag stories out of already, without alienating you — however satisfying it might be for the moment. Instead, I might say something like this, "I'm afraid your story doesn't meet my criteria without the changes you are unwilling to make, but please feel free to submit it to another editor. Thank you for thinking of my zine." Translation? You guessed it! But most of the time such radical solutions to unhappy writer/editor relationships are not necessary. Of course, very few of these relationships are trouble free.It's the nature of the beast, for that paragraph of lyrical description I just cheerfully dumped in four seconds is one the writer labored over for an hour and a half. It will take at least six months of distance before the writer can agree whole-heartedly that it didn't advance the story at all and nobody would miss it.
What does an editor owe a contributor? To listen to the writer's objections to suggested changes, to really listen - without exhilpiting hysteria or dogged closed-minded stubbomess — but not to cave in just because the writer threatens to hold her breath until she turns blue. And I'm not just kidding - I've been that writer, or close enough that it embarrasses me to think about it.The editor's job is to make that writer's story the best story it can be, not to be an uncritical cheering section. That doesn't mean you aren't supposed to be supportive, however, writers have fragile egos, and damaging them too severely can lead to the bane of an editor's existence — "writer's block". This will make your zine six months late and give you a nervous breakdown. The phrase to use is "It's good, but don't quite get the point of this, could you explain further." You get the drift? Hopefully, so will the writer; and she won't feel personally attacked.
What the editor should never do is rewrite - for there you begin to usurp the writer's prerogative. It's your job to make their vision, their style of telling, their story - clear to the reader, not to superimpose your vision, your style, or your story over someone else's. You can clarify, clean up the grammar, ask for more, or less — but if youaren't happy with a writer's story, or her way of telling it, you should send it back and let her try again with somebody who might be ecstatic about a story where Kirk is half-Klingon and a traitor to the Federation, all told in third-person omnipotent. Don't ever say "But my Kirk ...(or Luke, or Avon, or Doyle) wouldn't..." Of course, yours wouldn't, but their's very well might.
So much for what you do owe to the contributor — what you don't owe them is timidity. Any change will probably meet with some form of resistance, so why not go for broke? And if they don't like it, and refuse to work with you to make their story better, well then tell them to KISS MY #@$**! — Politely.