As it happens, I have had two editorial rewrite requests arrive on my metaphorical desk lately. One is from a periodical market, asking for changes on a novella of mine. The other is from an anthology market, asking for changes on a novelette. Yesterday I executed the changes on the novelette and got the piece back out to the editors.
This is interesting to me for two reasons. The first is purely personal and lacks any particular significance other than my own amusement, which is that I rarely get rewrite requests these days. The vast majority of my short fiction submissions in recent years have resulted up-or-down editorial response. I have no idea if this is because editors aren’t sending out rewrite requests so often as they used to, or if this is because my fiction has gotten to the point where it either works or it doesn’t.
The second reason this is interesting to me does tie into the first. That is to say, in one case the editors apologized for asking for changes. Speaking as both a writer and a sometimes anthology editor, this struck me as odd. Why wouldn’t an editor feel free to ask for changes? It’s their market, after all, and the stories need to fit their vision.
The writer is certainly free to decline those changes, or perhaps more ideally, analyze the thinking behind the changes and address the story in their own way to meet the perceived editorial requirement. That latter is exactly the technique I use to process feedback on novel manuscripts.
Personally, I am never ruffled by editorial rewrite requests. Usually I can see the reasons, whether or not I agree with them completely. And, well, it is their market. I’m certainly free to send the story somewhere else if I disagree with the changes being asked. And frankly, if I’m dealing with a pro market, the odds are very high that editor’s objectivity regarding the story is greater than mine(1). I wrote it, after all, and I subscribe to the belief that the writer is the last to understand their own story.
From my perspective, a rewrite request is a very good thing indeed. It combines the benefits of a sale (“Hey, I hooked an editor with this story!”) with a strong learning opportunity (“Hey, this story will work a lot better if ______!”). What could possibly go wrong?
(1) This is decidedly not a slam on semipro, micropay and for-the-love markets. I’ve published a considerable body of work at all levels. It’s merely a comment on the putative connection between funding and market position, where one can view pay rate as proxy for editorial experience and market credibility.