Writer, editor and combat veteran, Lincoln Crisler is truly a man of many talents! As someone who has sat on both sides of the slush pile divide, Lincoln is well qualified to talk about what lessons he has taken from his stints as an editor and how he has applied it to his own writing. Oh, and buy his anthology – it looks AWESOME!
The Author as Editor, and Vice-versa
As some of you may know (and if not a single one of you, David’s readers, knows, I really need to stop charging people for my mad marketing skillz), I have an anthology coming out on March 1st. It’s a collection of dark stories about people with superpowers. It’s the second anthology I’ve edited (and you can read more about that here). I learned some stuff in the process. Editing’s made me a better author, and quite possibly, a better human.
Even before editing my first anthology in 2006, I wasn’t exactly a stranger to editing. My prior editing experience, however, was vastly different. I was a high school student, editing other students’ newspaper articles with a seasoned newspaperman overseeing my efforts. I had a safety net, in other words. I knew what right looked like, but I also wasn’t going to be allowed to screw up too badly. I also had an easier job editing nonfiction; there’s a certain way to present the facts in a community newspaper, after all.
Still, most of what I learned was applicable to fiction editing. I learned from an early age how to suggest revisions to people. Having people nod their heads and accept it for the most part gave me confidence. One might even say it gave me balls of steel and unnecessary arrogance. At any rate, I went into the creation of my anthology with a couple lessons already out of the way, which freed me up to better apply myself to a couple of others. How to tell someone their work isn’t what you’re looking for—with grace and dignity—for instance.
- Even if their story blew.
- Even if they submitted another the day after you rejected the first, and a third the day after you rejected the second.
- Even if they sent you the basic plot of SAW with a couple of names changed.
- Even if they responded to your rejection with a good ol’ fashioned HOW DARE YOU!
That was lesson one. Lesson two was how to not take it personally—as an author. Yes, editing a book taught me how to be an editor, but it also taught me a couple of lessons about being an author—excellent things to get out of the way early, just like learning a few editor lessons in high school smoothed out the learning curve for me a bit seven years later. Telling people their work wasn’t what I needed—not to teach them a lesson, or to get back at them for sucking, but simply as a matter of business—so early in my career as an author really drove home the point that it really is all about the story. I’ve participated in critique groups my entire career as a publishing author (all six years of it to date!) and there are always authors who take rejection to heart. I’ve never really had that issue.
Other lessons included sensitivity to an editor’s timeline, attention to detail when formatting manuscripts (and spelling the editor’s name, and spelling the name of the publication…) and simply reading guidelines to make sure you’re not sending a straight-up horror story to a science fiction anthology. Besides all that, I write cleaner first drafts. Editing an anthology might not be for everyone. However, because of how beneficial working as an editor has been to me from an early point in my career as an author, I advise any author who is serious about their work to do AT LEAST ONE of the following:
- Join a critique group (online or local)
- Offer to read slush for a magazine or anthology
LINCOLN CRISLER is the author of two short story collections and one novella and the editor of Corrupts Absolutely?, Damnation Books‘ forthcoming anthology of dark superhero fiction. His work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications, to include HUB Magazine, Shroud Publishing’s Abominations anthology and IDW‘s forthcoming Robots vs. Zombies anthology. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.