Cal Angus of smoke + mold Recommends...

When editing a piece for publication, I imagine each comment or suggested change to punctuation, language, or sentence structure as a first entry in my dialogue with the writer. None of my edits are set in stone—even the tiniest addition or deletion of a comma can be reversed—but I am looking to see if the writer has understood their own intent behind their choices. This not only tightens an already good piece into the best possible version of itself, but it also offers the writer the opportunity to think through what it is they’re trying to say, and to better understand their own project in the process. When I’ve been on the other side of this relationship, I become more aware of what defines my own style when defending certain stylistic choices, and what I can cut without sacrificing the heart of the work. 

If there’s a change your editor suggests that you don’t agree with but you’re not quite sure why, take a break. Step away from the piece and come back to it in a day or two, and when you look at your edits again, see if you still feel the same way. Sometimes the shock of anything changed in our own writing can provoke a knee-jerk response that fades with time, allowing us to see how the piece would be better served with changes. But if you still disagree with the revision, don’t be afraid to say so tactfully to your editor. Editors are not always right; we know that editorial teams are overwhelmingly white and cis, so if you are a writer of color and/or a trans writer, there may be aspects of your work that your editor is missing. Use this as a chance to develop your point of view as a writer and build a relationship with an editor. Avoid sending a million separate e-mails. Instead, carefully craft a message articulating your reservations and the reasons for them, as well as succinct responses to some of the in-line comments on the document itself. You may find deeper resonances with this editor who (if they are any good) may in turn remember you as a careful and considerate writer for future opportunities.

Cal Angus, managing editor, smoke + mold

Portrait: Ebenezer Galluzzo