One other benefit of having a story published is that I had the chance to have a real dialogue with editors about my story. I’ve had friends and acquaintances read my stories before, but this revisions process taught me a lot about what editors are looking for, and what they aren’t. I think it will also help me in my own editing process going forward. Here are a few lessons learned:
1) Ask yourself questions about the story. It can be hard to get enough distance from your own writing to know what the reader has questions about when they’re reading. Try to step back and think about what you’re not explaining enough. There are good questions for the reader to be asking, and there are bad questions. The good questions are the ones that leave your reader wondering more about your world because it’s just so dang interesting. Bad questions are the ones that a reader asks because they don’t quite believe what you’re telling them.
2) Proofread. You may think you proofread, I certainly did. But did you catch the spot where you wrote further instead of farther? Don’t be that guy. Some editors are okay with small fixable errors like that, some may flatly reject you because of it.
3) Be consistent. Make sure that your titles of things you’ve made-up, whether it’s a town name or a fictional race of people or a new-fangled technology, are consistent throughout. If you’ve written it a few different ways in the story, that is going to lack believability for a reader, and be cringe-worthy for editors.
I am definitely a victim of not doing all three of these for some of my stories. Sometimes, I play hot potato with my stories and submit them too quickly just so I don’t have to look at them anymore. That means I don’t end up proofreading enough. I know a lot of people have the opposite problem of proofreading too much. I guess we all just have to hope to find a balance and forgiving editors.