Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Guest Post - Chris Rhatigan

Awhile back, Chris Rhatigan and I agreed to do a guest post exchange with each other. I've told him more than once that Frank and I would be the lopsided beneficiaries of this little arrangement - big time. I'm excited and appreciative to be putting up this guest post by Chris. Coming all the way from India, I might add. Thanks again Chris. - JW

What I’ve Learned About Editing

By Chris Rhatigan

There’s plenty of writing advice out there, but, for some reason, very little about editing. A less glamorous pursuit, I suppose. Or maybe people think it’s not hard. (They’re wrong.)

The first project I worked on was Pulp Ink, and the learning curve was steep. Luckily, I worked with the tireless and inventive Nigel Bird, which was an immense help. (I’d recommend this to anyone new to editing—work with other people, especially if it’s your first project.)

Since then I’ve taken over the zine All Due Respect and edited a second anthology, creatively titled Pulp Ink 2. While I’m proud of all this work, I think I’ve improved as an editor since that first go-round, and here’s some of what I’ve learned:
1) Don’t be afraid to edit.

This may sound blatantly obvious, but I found one of the most difficult aspects of editing was telling writers who I respected that I wanted to change their stories. It seemed disrespectful—yet if you can’t do this, you’re not an editor!

Most of the stories I choose for publication don’t need substantive changes, but some do. When an editor and a writer take the time to work on a story together, the results are generally superior.

2) Trust your instincts.

I try to read every story as if it were my own. I scrutinize the hell out of my stories—same goes for stories I publish. In both cases, I trust that little voice saying, “It’s not good enough!” Until that voice drives me nuts.

3) Know that there will be problems.

There’s going to be some issue along the way—a dissatisfied writer, formatting issues, legal stuff, blah blah blah. But almost all of these problems have a solution—and you’ll have to solve them. Ultimately, the editor is responsible for the final product.

4) Proofread, proofread, profread.


But seriously, proofread a lot. You’ll be stunned how many obvious, embarrassing errors slip through the cracks.

5) Only accept the best.

 I believe I’m stealing this from Brian Lindenmuth.

Anyway, it’s going to be difficult to turn down work from friends or writers you respect. You will agonize over this. You will dread writing that rejection.

Tough shit. Whatever you publish reflects back on you. Do you send out bad (or even average) stories? Fuck no! Same goes for editing.

Chris Rhatigan is the editor of the zine All Due Respect, and the anthologies Pulp Ink and Pulp Ink 2. He also recently signed on with Full Dark City Press, which will publish crime fiction in ebook form. He blogs at Death by Killing.   


  1. All five are bang on, good advice. From a writer's perspective, you can't do better than to have an editor who follows these guidelines.


  2. Second that. All of that.

    Chris, you already know how much I appreciate this but what the hey, thanks again ... and watch those damn monkeys. Can't trust them. I'm jealous of your world travels. - Jim

  3. Great advice, absolutely spot on!