Thursday, September 29, 2016

An Apology to Editors Everywhere

A writer friend of mine, trying his hand at editing for an online fiction magazine for the first time, dropped me a note. It's written as an open letter to editors everywhere, but I think it might be better reading for new writers everywhere.

I'm sure he assumed only I would see it, but it was too good to keep to myself.

Dear Editors,

I've got no shame admitting I didn't really take Standard Manuscript Format all that seriously. Indenting every paragraph? How silly! Page numbers? Utter fancy! My job is to write an amazing story, not worry about inches and margins and page breaks. Let the editor squint at the screen and dope out the minutia.

I felt this way until I read a story that didn't simply ignore Standard Manuscript Format, but left it clear out in the cold. Let it stand there holding a wilted posey watching the story breeze by it on the way to the big school dance with the varsity quarterback and not even getting a glance back.

No page numbers to guide me through the maze, no indication of when the story changed scenes until I was a dozen words into the next sentence and thoroughly confused. Page after nonsensical page that challenged my comprehension and, to the pain of the author, my interest.

Sisyphus never nudged such a burden as I while reading this story.

So to you, editors who suffered and labored to grasp what I aimed for without making myself clear, leaving you no footholds to scale the mountain, making no effort to be plain and precise so you may read the story rather than grapple fruitlessly with the way it was written, I am sorry.

I didn't know, and it's a pitiful excuse to make, but I really didn't. I get it now, maybe too late but I get it. I finally understand the importance of following, nay, championing Standard Manuscript Format. It couldn't be taught or explained to me. I had to suffer to reach the realization. And suffer I did.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph with a cherry on top of each, I'm sorry.

-- Prodigal Guest Editor

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