This shows the process one writer and editor went through to get to the final product of a short story for Lightspeed. This may not always be typical, but it's an excellent insight into the process.
Adams and Kerr's editing conversation reads similarly to others I've read. I've also read correspondence between a writer and a close acquaintance about the writer's private sentiments toward the writer's interaction with an editor. Although the behind-the-scenes dialogues are interesting for their glimpses into the business process, the private dialogues from behind the confessional curtain are more contentiously worded.
Posts: 3416 | Registered: Jun 2008
| IP: Logged |
With great respect to both John Adams and Jake Kerr, I think that this is a parable of what can go right and wrong when editing a story. I read the first and final stories, not the ones in between, deliberately to understand the extent of changes that were made, rather than the incremental (and possibly inoculating) steps through all drafts. I liked some changes (and agreed with Adams initial assessment) but was greatly disappointed with some of the changes.
Firstly, I admit that the beginning is so much stronger in the final story. The Personification section was exactly what the story needed (as Adams pointed out), and I agreed whole heartedly with putting the Metaphor section at the beginning (and loved Kerr's reasons).
I am not sure if adding in the Forshadowing section does much to the story that isn't already in the Passive Voice section, and therefore feels like the story repeats two scenes. (The one exception is the statement "Accidents happen" but that could easily have been added to the Passive Voice section.) But this is only a minor issue.
More important to my mind was the next two issues. Firstly, the replacement of Third Person Limited section with the Interior Monolog section killed the turning point of the story. Third Person Limited made the dilemma clear, by driving the tension of it through Mr. King's progressive discovery. This provided a greater contextual understanding of the scenario and its impact on the entire community. This link is severed by Interior Monolog, as it focuses on what is only important to Adam. As a result, it reduces the emotive tension between the personal and communal viewpoints that is the power of the story. Remember too, by killing off Adam at, or near, the middle of the story indicates that the story is bigger than Adam and his motives, and the communal viewpoint is critical to continuing the building tension. (Note too that the criticism of the story by Rex Gardner would have been avoided by the Third Person Limited section)
Secondly, and on the same theme, the changes to Simile significantly reduce this tension. It is much stronger opening with "At lunch one day, a friend of Violet’s asked her ..." as this puts Violet's dilemma into a deeply personal conflict, between her wishes/memories and her need to maintain her current communal ties. This context and tension makes the statements so much more powerful, as we can see both the stated and the unsaid statements. We can see how deep the pain goes when the stated words are somewhat sanitized, but still are powerful in their own right. As such, we can see a little of that heroism leaking out in Violet's reflection, even though she may not have realized that fact. In the revision, the loss of context diminishes the power of heroism by focusing primarily on the pain. Further it makes all statements have equal weight, which makes all the statements appear more distant. I think Kerr's instinct in this case was spot on, and wish that he didn't compromise on this section. It would have been better to change the section name than to suck the emotion out of the most resonant element (IMO) of the story.
I wonder if John Adams recognized the danger here of over-editing, and therefore accepted the story before more changes moved it away from the initial impact. At the same time, I wonder if Jake Kerr accepted the changes (particularly with the Simile section) because he simply wanted the story published and felt he was pushing the editor's patience to the limit.