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by Jennifer Brown Banks
I adore editors. As writers, where would we be without them? They’re like “image consultants” for our words. They give us poise on paper. The good ones have superhero qualities, with the ability to transform and rescue by the power of their red pen!
But, let’s face it: editors are human. Believe it or not, they make mistakes, are subject to mood swings, and suffer some of the same maladies as the rest of us mere mortals.
Which is why, as a serious writer, you should never let their words of criticism be the death of your confidence or career, if you want to go the distance, and enjoy the spoils of success.
Here’s how I had this epiphany.
The Incident: A few years ago, I sent a piece out to an editor whom I held in high regards. I was painstaking in my efforts, and was pleased as punch with the finished product. The next day, I excitedly opened my email, to read her response. She rejected it. But, not only did she reject it, she gave me a laundry list of things she thought were wrong, scolding me like an English college professor. I was devastated and embarrassed.
After I sulked for awhile, and had a “pity party, “I took the article out again and reread it—twice. I disagreed with her assessment. I trusted my writer’s instinct and decided to disregard her instructions on how to rework the piece. Instead, the next day I submitted it to another publisher in its original form.
You know what happened? It was sold in a matter of an hour, with no revisions required. My writers’ confidence was restored, and all was right with the world again. Truth be told, since then it’s actually happened several times.
The Lesson: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” In other words, treat periodic criticism as a guideline for your writing, not as gospel. If you’re proud of your project, and you’ve done your best, keep sending it out until you find the right market and editor for your work.
Whether it’s in medicine or the world of publishing, second opinions can be crucial to survival.
Here’s another case in point.
The Incident: Not long ago, I wrote a commentary piece on the state of relationships today and the death of chivalry. I considered it thought provoking and timely. When I submitted it to my long time editor for a monthly column I write, she kicked it back. No explanation was given. She merely said that she wasn’t “feelin’ it.” Since I already had established a strong relationship with this editor, and felt that I knew her taste, based upon a strong acceptance record in the past, a few months later, I resubmitted. It was a no-go.
As they say, the 3rd time is a charm. And it was. Six months later, that same piece was finally accepted by my editor with no revisions, and appeared in our love issue. She and I laugh about it now, when I periodically remind her.
The Lesson: Sometimes in writing, as in other aspects of life, timing makes a difference, whether it’s a seasonal piece, an editor’s mindset, or current events.
Market accordingly and persevere.
It should also be noted that in a T.V. interview with author J.K. Rowling, she shared that her manuscript had been sent off over thirty times for the popular Harry Potter series, before she became an “overnight success.”
The Final Lesson: Nobody likes rejection, whether it’s personal or professional. But, in the overall scheme of things, rejection can be just as important to a writer’s maturity and development as acceptance. It all depends on what you choose to do with it.
© Copyright 2008, Jennifer Brown Banks
Jennifer Brown Banks is the former senior editor of Mahogany Magazine. She holds a B.A. in Business Management and blogs at Penandprosper.blogspot.com
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