Monday, 24 February 2014

Three Lessons I Learnt From My Editors

Believe me, editing is a daunting task. An editor, who doesn’t earn some haters on daily basis, is not an editor; said YNK. But the writers always want to be closer and nicer to the editor, so it is really difficult to keep the writers at bay. I hope some of my past experiences with my editors come handy now when I am wearing editor’s hat.

Even after writing a lot for magazines, I still have not figured out what editors want. It is as mysterious as the other side of the moon. Once I had sent this draft on some scientific invention, and as expected, got a call within a day from the local magazine editor. He was nice and polite for first couple of minutes, showing a lot of interest in my life, breakfast and beer brands. But later, he took my article on his table, and started explaining how stupid I must be to send such a bullshit to his prestigious magazine. “Who does understand this nonsense? You have written words like space, rocket, hydrogen and astronomy. Who do you think your readers are? Do they need to keep Webster’s Dictionary next to your article and turn its pages every time they find a new word like these? Dilute your gin, pour more soda and then, offer the drink”, he was furious. 

However, I learnt my first lesson: Don’t include scientific words in your science article. “Three guys jumped out of the bloody floating bus and screamed, ‘hey! We reached moon, man!’” would be perfectly fine. 

One fine morning, as I was getting ready for my work, got a call from this literary magazine. It was quite a surprise since I had sent my most creative work a few days back, and now the poetry division head himself had taken pains to give a ring. “Hi Chakra, your poem is beautifully written. Where was the talent hidden all these days, bud! Why were you wasting your time and energy on writing science which hardly has any readership?”, the person on the other end was trying to be as polite and friendly as possible with this heartbreaking comment. After the initial foreplaying on phone, he came to the business talk. “See, the problem is, we need to edit before publishing. That is the policy. Be it anything, we need to do our job sincerely. So, as the procedure, I had to edit your poem.” “What!!!” , I silently screamed on the top of the roof! We edit poems in magazines?? “Don’t worry, dear poet. I have not done any major alteration. Have just cut your poem short by two lines. Just two lines. Just last two lines. That’s all. Don’t collapse!”, he was consoling my soul. “But..but, it was a sonnet, right!”, I am not sure if I told it loud and clear. I guess, I didn’t. 

Lesson two: If you love your baby, keep her under your blanket. 

Once, I had this e-mail by editor of a monthly fiction magazine. It is always an honor to get a letter from the editor herself. I had a letter from her, saying she needed some alterations in my mystery story. “See the problem is, the moment we start reading a murder mystery, we start guessing about the murderer. And most of the times, 99% to be precise, the murderer is one among the characters depicted within the story. So, logically, the reader too confines his guessing to the characters that have come and gone in the story. The real problem is, when you have only four characters in the story, and one of them has died.. The murderer must be one among the three. Don’t you think one can easily guess..since the sample space is so small? Keeping this view in mind, please rework on your piece (of ???) and send again”, read the mail. Now all I had to do is to either increase the sample space by bringing in more people into the death ceremony or to keep the murderer completely out of the story even if he or she is important to the plot. I fell into the trap. I increased the number first. Brought more and more ‘specially needed’ characters like butler, cobbler, carpenter, teacher, cook, plumber and snake charmer, so that the story is full of characters which could possibly make it difficult for the reader guess who the culprit was. The editor contacted me several times and asked for more changes. So, we replaced the cook with a guard, made a gender transformation to some, married some, made some older and some younger, and so on. Finally the editor managed to get a publishable work out of me, and a few months later, the story, to my relief, saw the light of print. The murderer was not the part of story, as editor desired it to be, so, I even kept the entire murder scene off the murder mystery to safeguard myself. 

Lesson Three: Editor is your first (and possibly the only) enemy.


“No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.” - H.G. Wells

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The first crack on the egg

In an interview that I had taken, veteran writer and Jnanapeet award winner Prof U R Ananthamurthy told me “Writing is like crystallization. You need the solvent, solution and a thread. You keep them there for time to take over and do its magic. You are sure of getting a shining crystal, but never know exactly when. It may happen overnight, or it may take an entire decade. You will never know about it”

I happen to think about it over and over again. How true! There were times I had wasted an entire day thinking of my first line. There were instances I had spent an entire evening just about a four word title! But there were also times I had finished a beautiful and thought provoking piece of work in just a couple of hours. And then I had thought that I might not have come up with that work even if I had taken an entire weekend. It just happens. And sometimes it just --- doesn’t!

For last 3 weeks, I have not written anything than my columns. For those who do not know about it, yes, I am a columnist too apart from being an editor. I write 3 columns a week, on three different topics, in three different magazines, for three different sets of readers! The longest of them is a column I write on Math. Yes, you heard it right! I write a math column, which is about 2000 words every week! The interesting part is that it is the only math column that appears every week in Kannada (and probably in any Indian language)!! And then I have a Science column in a weekly magazine, where I write about new inventions and new interpretations. I also write about various honeymoon spots in India, which I myself had visited, most of the times, alone or with friends, but never with my wife (hello! When did you get married, man??!).

Let’s come to the point. I have been working on 5 Stories and got no time to write anything new apart from columns, for last 3 weeks. But I do not complain about it. I happened to go through a bundle of new stories, though tiresome it was quite challenging. We have received a whooping 50+ stories in just 5 days! And, on an average, I have read about 10 stories every day! Some are decent, quite impressive, with interesting and out of the ordinary plots. I am happy that end of the day, we have a bunch of challenging, ‘keeps on the edge of your seat’ kinda stories. In a few days, you too are gonna enjoy them! I bet.

As the writer says that the process of writing is crystallization, I am gonna say even editing is nothing less to it. Here, we need to see which works, which doesn’t. Sometimes we need to change the solvent, bring in some fresh solution and see which combination works. And finally, we are ought to give the crystal in our reader’s hands in time. We have no luxury to wait for decades, just like a writer patiently does, but at the same time, we cannot compromise with the quality of the crystal. Auw! You’ll never know how we need to fight with time and quality, edge to edge. 

It is like a new baby coming out to this world. It is like a duckling cracking its eggshell to take some fresh air. We as a team, are thinking and working and reworking round the clock on bringing out the first issue. We have taken at most care to see there is nothing uninteresting in it. Not even a word. Are you too excited to see our first baby? Your baby!


“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”
Stephen King

If you have a story, what are you waiting for!!!

Hi beloved writers!!

Let me give a brief about me and my work! I am Rohith and I edit an e-zine that gets published twice a month. The specialty of this magazine is that it carries only 5 stories (of various genres) in each of its issues.

Our first issue is out in March! It will be available on all the online platforms around the world, so, the writer gets a global readership.

If you want to submit to this magazine, here are some guidelines:

  • Though we like to have a huge collection of stories, we do not encourage multiple submissions from a single writer. So, always send the best of your works. And most preferably, a single story.
  • The preferred length of the story is 2000-5000 words. But it is not the primary criterion. We do not accept one line/one paragraph/nano stories.
  • 5 Stories – is a magazine aimed at the general reader. It is not a ‘literature heavy’ stuff. We like to have interesting, heart touching, time stopping, breath taking, as well as simple – easy to understand – lucid stories. The very quality of a good story is that it gives wings to the imagination.
  • Keep the language simple, but do not compromise with your style. Keep the plot clear, but do not dilute. Lousy dialogues, shabby characterization, vague plot, complex-unclear story and cluttered language may work against you.

Lastly, we might have got hundreds of stories. But we choose the best 5. Try to be there!

To submit, please hit: