Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Second Hat to Wear

This past year I've had the opportunity to serve as editor on two short-fiction anthologies. In Blood Business, a noir crime/paranormal anthology from Hex Publishers, I am the assistant editor alongside the editor/publisher Josh Viola. For the 2016 RMFW Anthology, Found, to be published by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, I am the head cheese--the vato in charge of everything.

In both cases, serving as editor has been an instructive experience. For one, I'm on the other side of the editorial desk and it's enlightening to review manuscripts as they come to me. Hex invited writers with a track record in the genre and for the RMFW anthology, it was an open submission for members only. I got to see manuscripts arrive in various stages of preparation. Some read like first drafts and others were already quite polished, both in story-telling and craft.

Since the manuscripts that arrived for Blood Business came from established writers, I had my eyes opened a little more as to how challenging it is to write a good story. Mostly because we writers are always too close to our work. In our mind, we've tied together loose ends and the narrative flows in one logical current. Tightening the story shows the value of a good editor, and I hope I've been so. In my content editing, I had to be careful that I helped the writer hone the story and that I not rewrite it. Plus, many of the submitting writers have significant authorial credentials and now I'm in the lofty position of judging their work and suggesting changes, a humbling role. That concern is weighed against the publisher's desire to release a great book so Josh and I had to call them as we saw them.

My experience with the RMFW anthology has been more encompassing because I honcho the anthology from submissions through selection, editing, copyediting, cover and interior design, formatting for publication, publication as an ebook and a trade paperback, and marketing. Since we accepted open submissions, the editorial process heavily involved the R-word: rejection. We received 89 entries and I had to whittle that number down to fifteen. What helped--or hurt if you were on the submitting end--was that RMFW published strict formatting rules that I followed to the letter. That knocked 35 submissions out of the running, which was disappointing because that included stories from friends that I was looking forward to reading. The remaining 54 stories were doled out in a blind process to eleven volunteer readers, and we assigned a score to each: 0-pass; 1-maybe; 2-accept. Nine stories received a double 2 score. That meant we had to review the remaining to decide on enough stories to fill the anthology. Although I knew how subjective the process was going to be, I was still surprised how our opinions broke on many of the entries. In sending out the rejection notices, even then I had second doubts about which were the best and wished I could have included more, but I had to draw the line somewhere.

Found will be available this September, and Blood Business will hit the streets in 2017. Buy lots of copies of each and make this editor happy.

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