Monday, March 26, 2012

A Virgin in Red

By Kathleen Bradean

About two years after I joined the Erotica Readers and Writer's Association's wonderful writing community (still one of the best web based writer's groups out there) I submitted my first story for publication. Not content to go small, I headed directly for Best Women's Erotica. At the time, Marcy Sheiner was the editor, and submissions were mailed on paper.

Every writer who has seen an acceptance knows the elation of that first yes. Acceptances never get old. Every one feels like a major accomplishment. And every rejection still makes me want to crawl under my desk and hold world's smallest pity party.

But Marcy said yes. Then she mailed her edits back. The first page almost dripped with red ink. My first thought was "and this is a story she liked?" The following pages were marked up quite a bit too, but nothing like the first page. There was a huge X through my first four hundred words followed by the note: "Your story starts here."

I took a deep breath as I realized this was the most important turning point a writer ever has to face. I could throw a diva fit and tell her that my words were sacred, or I could turn off my ego. I chose the second option, and man, am I ever glad I did.

By the time I worked through Marcy's edits, my story was so much better. So much better. Nothing was lost but the crap. I felt as if I'd been through a master class in writing. Now that I've helped other writers with detailed critiques, I realize how much time Marcy gave to me, and I am so grateful. I should have paid her. She changed the way I approach stories and told them. In that one edit, she taught me how to create a story that would sell. Instead of my long rambling warm-up approach, I jump right into the middle of action. I make each word pull its weight. I understanding pacing better.

To many writers, editors are the enemy, but not for me. I work with an editor for my novels now, Kelley from Sterling Editing, and as with Marcy, each session is a personalized master class. I learn so much, and I see great leaps forward in my writing during the process. The ability to create stories may be an innate gift, but writing those stories is a craft. As with any craft, it takes practice and work and desire to improve - and a really great editor to show you what to work on.

3 comments:

  1. Great post, Kathleen,

    I would have titled this post "Your Story Starts Here". Because that's the shining insight that Marcy brought to your work. I've had editors/critters do that for me, too - point out that I'm shambling around for the first couple of paragraphs when what I really needed to do is jump in feet first.

    So your first pub was in BWE? Wow. I've never had the guts to even submit to that series.

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  2. Marcy must have really liked that story, because she picked it for Best of BWE too.

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  3. That's one of the first lessons I learnt, and one of the most important I try to pass on my students: your story really starts here. Great post!

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