In my editorial capacity at Triangulation, I’ve seen us request about a half dozen rewrites so far. This compares with three or four outright acceptances. Why this approach? The idea is that we should not outright accept a story unless we’re willing to run in exactly as it comes to us, because sometimes an author turns out to be a auteur and refuses to change a word of his or her masterpiece. My reaction to this policy was mixed, the reasoning being that at two cents a word we should be encouraging writers, not throwing uncertainty at them. The counterargument is that it’s a buyer’s market flooded with decent stories, most of which could be improved with a little work. We shouldn’t settle for less than the best we can get. Plus, it’s actually quite helpful for most writers, particularly early in their career, to work through such edits. We do end up accepting almost every rewrite (every one so far this year), which is gratifying for all involved. Still, there was that niggling unease in me that thought we just were not being fair to writers.
That changed today. We received an excellent story that would have been a nice contrast to other stories in the anthology, but it suffered from a few fixable problems that kept some of us from being entirely enthusiastic. Myself, I was wetting my pants at the possibility of publishing it, though I did see the main problem others identified. I was just willing to look past it, figuring we could always work to iron it out in revision.
So we crafted a rewrite request explaining pretty clearly what we thought the story needed to really shine. The author declined to make the changes. Now, I see first hand why the policy makes sense. I would not have been truly content running the story as is – the main flaw really does detract from the story opening in a measurable way.
At the same time, I’m sorry to see that one slip through the net. I have no doubt it will be published somewhere.
I guess it’s the author’s prerogative. At least this experience has shown me the other side of the desk; next time an editor requests changes on my manuscript, I’ll be sure to consider long and hard before refusing.