Killed Passages – by Deborah J Ledford

I thought I would veer away from my Staccato series of articles to discuss my efforts in publishing and the editing machines I have encountered.

Although I am fortunate to now have nine fiction short stories acquired by print publications, this journey has often been painful. By that I mean the edits I have been forced to agree to in order for the work to appear in print.

 My first encounter with the “editor killing machine” occurred for one of my first short stories. The editor insisted I kill the very first line of the story. Now, to me this first line was crucial—the passage set up the entire story, but the editor felt the line opened too many doors to unanswered questions. Long story short…I did delete the first line.

Another disappointment came when a particularly close to my heart story looked to be perfect for an anthology. I knew the piece would be ideal for their collection, but the maximum word count was 1500 words less than my finished story. Did I find a way to kill off 1500 words?  Yes: reluctantly and with a heavy heart.

Latest in my tale of woes came from my latest acquired story. The publisher is the Arizona branch of Sisters in Crime so I knew the publishing credit would be awesome. I wrote an original story for their newly released holiday mystery anthology “How Not to Survive the Holidays” and soon received their approval, however I would need to change the name of one character. If you’re anything like me, I research names exhaustively to fit the name with the psychology of each and every character. In this case, we’re talking about a cat—a particularly ornery one at that. I named the feline Fungo. The piece is about two Italian restaurateur brothers who stumble upon a cat that reminds them of their long-dead Uncle Giuseppe, therefore I thought the reference to mushrooms would lend itself to the texture and tone of this amusing story.

So, you’ve probably figured out by now that “Fungo” is a take on the Italian curse—which plays in perfectly with the cat’s character. Nevertheless, the editors felt this would be offensive to readers and they highly suggested (okay, gently demanded) that I change the name. I sighed and searched for a different humorous moniker. Nothing fit as well as Fungo, but I decided on “Scampi” instead.

The good news is that when the time comes to publish my short story collection, each and every one will be the version I always intended for readers to enjoy.

As for contentious fingers in my novel writing, my former agent had me completely change a lead character’s profession in one of my novels. Now I’m thinking of changing him back to my original concept. This agent also insisted I delete one pivotal character entirely—which I refused to do.  From that point on, I feel the agent did not represent the project to the best of her abilities.

Fortunately, Mike Simpson at Second Wind Publishing has allowed me to keep the original vision of Staccato from page one to The End. Every character, location, sub-plot you will read is what I intended and for that I am very grateful.

I think everyone would like to know: How far would you go to see your words in print?

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel Staccato, scheduled for release by Second Wind Publishing, September 15, 2009.

6 Comments

Filed under books, fiction, writing

6 responses to “Killed Passages – by Deborah J Ledford

  1. Just to see my words in print? I wouldn’t change anything. For a boxcar load of money? I’d change everything.

  2. How far would you go to see your book on the big Screen? Years ago my novel “Red Wine For Breakfast” was optioned by a movie producer who thought it was perfect for their next big “blockbuster”. To make a very long..about 18 months out of my life..story short, by the time they had the finished script, the only thing that remained of my book was the title, the setting and the names of the characters! I would NOT have my name associated with their garbage and tore up the contract.

    Had another experience with a publisher who sent me a contract for the book, then wanted me to delete the entire first chapter! Sorry. As long as MY name appears on the cover as the author, it’s MY story, each and every word, and it will take a great deal of convincing, and it had been be a damn good reason, for me to change the text to that extent. Word count is NOT a good enough reason!

    I just finished working with an editor on the re-release of Red Wine (Sept 15). Some of her suggestions I agreed with and changed, others I did not. It really depends on what you consider to be a “deal breaker”, or how much you want that publisher to market your book. Compromise is one thing if it doesn’t completely ruin your original story, and your integrity as an author is worth more, or should be, than any amount of $$. You’re also signing away your reputation.

    If the editor says “Change this or else”, and you totally disagree with the changes, then I’d shop it around to another publisher.

  3. Interesting question. I think I’d change almost anything – now. Later… who knows. It’s rather nice that you imply there really is a later.

    • It is nice to know that eventually what you fully intended for your stories have a new life. In most cases as soon as the work appears in print the rights revert back to the writer. Anthologies are a different case. Most of the contracts I’ve signed for those, the publisher owns the rights for 2 years.

  4. christinehusom

    It will be great to see Staccato in print!

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