This was originally a school assignment, but I found it interesting because I’ve never thought about my personal editorial philosophy before. It helped me understand my reactions to certain pieces of literature. I thought that it might also be interesting to authors, so I’m posting it here. I know that I’m not the only person who has these opinions.
There are many elements that I look for when determining whether or not a story should be published. The first is imagery, which seems simple because most stories should have it, but I’m the type of person who thinks in pictures and whose senses are closely tied to memory. When I look at the hundreds of books on my shelves, in my drawers, and spilling out of my closet, I often don’t remember the names and backstories of the characters. Sometimes, I don’t even remember the book’s plot. What I do remember is the imagery, and when I think about the story months or years after reading it, the imagery is always the first thing that comes back to me. I can take a book off my shelf and say, “This novel has a scene of a mother and daughter walking in a river,” or “This literary magazine has a story where a man puts wood carvings of people on his fireplace mantel.” I want stories that have strong imagery because those are the ones that I remember and want to read over and over.
Since I enjoy reading a piece many times, I look for writing that will hold up to multiple readings without becoming uninteresting. I like stories with layers. I love to read a story a second or third time and see things that I missed the first time.
I want to read about characters with intricate pasts, complex motives, believable desires, and psychological depth. I prefer main characters who are active, not just reactive, and definitely not just victims. I like characters who take control of their lives and make the events in the plot happen. I don’t want to see them only reacting to events that were created by circumstance or by less-important characters. Some reaction is fine, of course, but I also want to see the character doing/creating/causing something. I get annoyed by characters who are victims and nothing else. If a character is being bullied or targeted by bad guys, there has to be a good reason. I want to see the character do something to change the situation and not just mope around feeling sorry for himself/herself.
I enjoy reading many different types of stories, but I most often find myself being drawn to stories that are quirky and unpredictable. I have heard people say, “There’s no such thing as an original idea,” and maybe that’s true, but I definitely think that there are original combinations of ideas. I love it when I read a story and see some combination that I’ve never seen before or think about something familiar in an entirely new way. I want stories that entertain me as well as make me think and keep me guessing. I have very little tolerance for predictability. It’s disappointing to guess the end of a story, flip to the last page, and discover that I’m correct.
I look for stories that make me feel something. I’m always happy when some element in the first few pages of a story makes me sit up and pay attention. I want plots that make me so curious that I can’t put the story down until I find out what happens next. I want to feel the tension that comes from reading faster and faster until I find out what happens. I also want characters that I can care about. The characters don’t have to be likeable or be good people, but they have to be intriguing enough that I care about what happens to them. The best stories are the ones where I care about the characters so much that I’m anxious when they’re in trouble, and I’m happy when they achieve their goals. I have read so many stories that involve breakups and makeups, death and destruction, plans thwarted and battles won that I sometimes feel as if I’ve become emotionally numb to those types of stories. I always appreciate it when an author gets me invested enough in the plot and characters that the story’s events have an emotional impact on me.
I don’t have as much experience with poetry as I do with novels and short stories, but I’m most drawn to poems that play with language and sound beautiful when read out loud. I also like poems that are able to say a lot with very few words and have strong imagery.
I prefer nonfiction that has a narrative and is both entertaining and educational. I want to learn something without feeling as if I’m learning something. I’ve never enjoyed reading a textbook.
I have a love/hate relationship with memoirs because there are so many poorly-written ones out there. It seems as if anyone who is slightly famous or had something slightly interesting happen to them publishes a memoir, even if they’ve never written anything before in their life. I dislike memoirs that are self-indulgent. I’m reading the book because I want to hear a good story, not because I want to hear about the awesomeness of the author. I enjoy memoirs that skip some of the “I,” “I,” “I,” “Me,” “Me,” “Me,” and focus on being entertaining and educational.
That’s my editorial philosophy as of right now. It will probably change in the future. Thanks for reading it.