I’m a slush reader for a science fiction magazine. The submissions are many and the quality varied. I sigh and wonder how some people could submit something that even their best and most subjective friends would reject. But, although I haven’t produced in a while now, I’m also a writer. Whenever I send out an article or a story I hope that some editor isn’t shaking his or her head at my offering. Karma has come around to bite me on the posterior. (Are youC still a writer if you’ve stopped writing? That’s a topic I’m planning to explore another day,)


Once my article has been accepted I’m thankful I no longer feel compelled to revise it, (a writer’s disorder). A week or two later I will re-read it and realise that certain parts of it aren’t as good as I originally thought. But it is out of my hands. I have to hope that the editor won’t notice or else will do something to fix it. Because it’s his (her) baby now. I’ve given it up for adoption; whatever happens now is not my call.


A good editor cuts out what’s unnecessary without disturbing the essence of the piece and the writer will get the kudos. Unfortunately the writer also gets the blame for a bad edit. Be prepared to accept that fact, especially if you work as a freelance writer.


There are the good editors, the bad ones and the what-the-hell-have-they-done-to-my-article types. Sometimes an editor will cut your precious words down to fit it in an advertisement. They’ve made an embarrassing mess of your child. Bite your tongue and keep your opinion to yourself. After a while your tongue will develop a tough epidermal layer and you will hardly notice the pain.


A good editor is like a good GP and knows a little bit about a whole lot. A bad editor, on the other hand…well, I had an awful experience once. Every reference that would have made my piece meaningful was cut out to shrink it and have it fit the ads on the page. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry when I saw the illustration. No one had communicated the changes to the illustrator, so the illustration made no sense to me or to anyone reading the piece.


Cutting a piece to fit in advertisements is fine. Magazines make their money that way and so do I. I just think that that particular article could have been edited better. The options are limited when you are a freelancer. You can complain, in which case you might not have a chance again at that market, or you might decide to never submit there again which limits your choices, especially if you like the magazine. Or you might hope that that editor moves on to some other publication and butchers somebody else’s work.


Writers are sensitive plants who, no matter how many articles they have had published, don’t know whether or not their article is good until some submissions editor tells them. Be prepared to wait weeks or even months before you hear. Call or email and ask what the policy is about the timeline, then leave it to fate. My advice is, move on to the next project and forget about the previous one until that precious email arrives in your inbox.


8 thoughts on “Giving your piece up for adoption

  1. I’m asked to write a one paragraph article for an eight page flyer of happenings at our club. Each time it is changed into a little add with very little left of what I wrote so I know where you are coming from. 😀

  2. A very fine and accurate description of being a writer. It’s true that we tend to never want to let go of anything we have written. And I like the thought that sending whatever we have written to an editor is really like giving your text up for adoption. Spot on.

  3. I’ve had a couple interviews and articles edited for some online sites, and it is a bit odd what comes out of them sometimes. Omissions that don’t make sense, restructuring that changes the meaning a bit, etc. But unlike novels where the writer has the final approval, I understand there are word limits and space issues that need to be considered, so as long as it’s in line with what I had intended, I do just as you advice: move on.

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