Editing isn’t writing, or, how being an editor is like waiting for your chance to take a bow.

I’ve just finished putting together the contents of the first issue of Lakeside Circus. I am immensely proud of this publication, which represents a lifelong goal of mine. I am thrilled by the names we’ve lined up, and even more thrilled at the stories and poems they submitted. There’s still work to be done – and a lot of it, over the next two weeks – but for a moment I can sit back, admire the Table of Contents, and be content.

But editing is not about me.

Ultimately, when this issue is published, the people who’ll be (rightfully) getting the accolades will be the authors. That’s how it should be. Being “the editor” means being the person who puts together the anthology, selects the work, does the editing, arranges for a cover (whether by hiring the artist and working on the design, or being part of the team that approves the final version). When you’re a small press editor, you’re also sometimes the publisher, and that can mean doing the accounting, advertising, publicity, getting the project made into an ebook or designing the print version, overseeing contracts, doing the mailing… For me, that’s always been true. I do it all.

Editing is much less about being the star of the show and much more like being the stage manager. It’s office work and costuming and setting the lighting cues so that when your performers walk out into the public eye, they look and sound their best. You arrange the performances in the right order so that one plays into the next, and none take away from what came before or comes after. You read the anxious emails from authors who didn’t get something they should have, and you make sure they get it, or who aren’t sure this is their best work (so you assure them you love it, because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t have bought it). You make sure the theater is booked for the right day, the tickets are printed, you have enough volunteers to seat the patrons, and your curtain will rise on time.

And at the end, when the actors take their bow, you sometimes get a nod, a wave. You might even get moment to step out into the bright lights and blushingly accept some of the praise. Maybe.

Your authors will thank you for the chance to be in your production, and that’s right. You did give them an opportunity to shine. But they’re the ones who wrote the stories, who will get the best or harshest reviews, who’ll be lauded if they succeeded or singled out if they failed. The pressure on them isn’t like what you face as an editor. If a piece in your anthology falls flat, it’s the author who’ll be criticized, even though it was your job to keep that from happening.

A few weeks ago, Ellen Datlow posted about how terribly unprofessional it is to include your own work in something you’ve edited. Most people agreed. A few stood up and said, “Why would I edit an anthology if I wasn’t going to use it as a vehicle for my own writing?”

That sound you might have heard was me banging my head against my desk.

I edit because I want to see a certain kind of publication in the world. Editing gives me the power to create the book or magazine that’s missing from the library shelf. I write when I want the focus to be on me. They’re two different things. If you aren’t confident enough of your skill as a writer that you can’t see yourself selling that story to someone else, putting it in anthology you’re editing won’t make your writing any better or do that much to help your career. Most of us will see you used the work of others to promote your own. You bring down the value of their work by casting aspersions on the whole production. Like a director who also stars in the show… we’ll always wonder if it could have been better had you stayed behind the scenes instead of insisting on the spotlight.

I love getting to work as an editor. I am a writer. Those two things are different, too. Knowing that, I can pour all of my free time into editing (and I do) but still feel the ache and need to write. I can write and not miss editing, until I go looking for a book that doesn’t exist. Then it’s time to put out a casting call, arrange for a theater, hire a crew, and start all over again.

Be aware of the hard work and time it takes to edit an anthology, or oversee a magazine. I’ll appreciate that you noticed, in the same way that I’d expect to be recognized for finishing a big project at my dayjob. (In fact, it’s exactly the same as that.) But be impressed by the authors who made that time and effort worthwhile. I know that I am.

And when I share the next piece of my own writing that’s been published, you can shine the spotlight on me then. That’ll be my time to shine.

My editorial rates are going up. Book now to lock in the old prices!

With the new dayjob, I don’t have time to freelance as much as I was (but I still need to in order to make ends meet, and to give back to the writing community which has been there for me). I have to give up more of my personal life (and sleep) in order to get complete those projects. Right now, I’m booked into October, and have to edit before work, during lunch, after work, and all weekend, just to finish up what I already have.

From now on,  I have to be choosier about the projects that I take, and charge a little more for the work I do.

As of October 1, my rates will be:

  • Proofreading for .5 cent per word
  • Line editing for 1 cent a word
  • Two-part developmental edit for 2 cents per word

(You can find my resume here, and a detailed description of what you get for those rates, plus my process, here.)

If you want to schedule me now, I’ll give you the current rates, no matter how far in advance you’re putting down your deposit. Want to book a spot for October? Do it now and save money. Want December? That’s fine, too.

Email me at carriecuinn gmail com, or use my contact form.

And please, tell your friends! I’m well aware of how hard it is to find the money for an editor when you’re starting out as a writer, which is why I kept my rates so low I was often making less than minimum wage. If you absolutely have to book my old rates but aren’t sure when you’ll need edits, contact me this week. We’ll work something out.


Quick Updates (Writing, editing, job hunt, SFWA, and more)

The bullet points:

  • WordPress decided to feature my recent post “11 Exhausted SF Tropes You Should Avoid” as their Fresh Pressed blog today. Hello, new readers!
  • I still have spots open in my Short Fiction Workshop, which begins August 1. You can read more about it here and here. Only $50 for a 4 week online class in micro and flash fiction, sign up today!
  • I’m also still taking editing clients, though I’m nearly booked up. See my editing services page for rates and notes.
  • The last few days have been stressful and sad; I’ve had trouble sleeping, haven’t been eating. Managed to convince myself to get something today–which ended up being a giant cheeseburger and fries. Okay, not healthy, but the most delicious thing I’ve eaten since Friday. I’ve had a lot of success losing weight and getting fitter recently by remembering to balance healthy food with tasty food. I had to buy a suit this week, for job interviews, and was pleasantly surprised to find I’d gone down a pants size since Readercon. So, yes, carrots, hummus,  fruit, prawns, steamed vegetables… and white rice, lumpia*, corned beef, bacon, and cheeseburgers. Mmm.
  • Speaking of interviews: I had two phone interviews last week, an in-person interview yesterday, one scheduled for tomorrow, and another one on Friday. All summer, I’ve sent out resumes and heard nothing. Now that Fall is looming, they’re all calling. I expect to be working in a dayjob again by the end of August. A stable paycheck and a consistent work schedule will make it a lot easier for me to pursue my writing and Dagan Books projects. It seems like a dayjob would mean I have less time, but in fact I think I’ll have more–freelance editing, which is a great skill that few have and I feel lucky to have it as a fallback, means spending hours and hours a week just looking for work, or doing sample edits (which is essentially applying for and interviewing for a job, with every single editing project I take on).
  • SFWA continues to move forward with its plan to reorganize the Bulletin; I got to proof the survey which is about to go out to members, and I can say it’s quite comprehensive.
  • “Editors of Gor” is still a thing I am writing. I have a couple of editing deadlines this week, but I’m hoping to get my Gor parody story finished this weekend. I am a woman of my word, after all, even if those words are, “Wait, what do you want me to write?”
  • My SF Signal column has been on a brief hiatus while I sort out what to write about. I’m locked into a very small segment of comics–SF/F/H independent comics only, and Top Shelf/Image/Dark Horse don’t count as indie for this purposes of this column. When I came to SF Signal, there was already another writer handling those titles, and sharing isn’t an option at this point. I can write more than I have been, if I want to write negative reviews of truly indie books I’ve read but didn’t like. That’s not the kind of reviewer I am. I want to share the titles you should be reading, not tearing down the ones I think you shouldn’t. So, a break… But not for too much longer, I hope. I’ve been writing there for 8 months and I’ve like to do at least a year before I decide whether to move on.

* I made pork/shrimp lumpia this week that were dryer than usual; realized that I’d used a leaner cut of pork, so there was hardly any fat. Yeah, that’s not going to work. But on the up side, there are vegetables in there, too! Well. Some shredded carrots and onion. Oh, and garlic! See, it’s healthy.


Short Fiction Workshop: Better Writing Through Brevity ($50, 4 week class, begins Aug 1)

Beginning August 1, 2013, I’ll be offering a 4-week short fiction workshop online. It’s geared toward people with schedules that might keep them from being able to take a similar workshop in person, as well as non-US writers who might be 12 hours ahead or behind the rest of the class*. I wanted to keep the cost small to accommodate the folks who’ve asked me to do something like this because they can’t currently afford to hire me as an editor. This class is only $50 per person, and includes a free edit of your final writing exercise.

Before the class starts, you’ll get access to a private, online forum. There you’ll find the recommended reading, broken down by story size, as well as a place to introduce yourself. You can post your writing exercises and ideas in this space without having to worry–because it’s not open to the public, your stories won’t be considered “previously published”. You can post any time of the day or night, and your work and comments will get seen by the rest of the class.

At the beginning of each week, you’ll be emailed the lecture and assignment for that week (you are not required to be online at any specific time). You do the writing exercise for that week, and once you’ve posted it, we’ll be able to discuss your work. I will personally critique every bit of writing that gets posted, as well as answer questions and participate in the conversations. Your final assignment, a flash piece of up to 1000 words, won’t be posted in the forum. Instead, you’ll email the story to me, and I will do a thorough edit of each one. The class schedule looks like this:


Week 1 (Thursday, August 1): Introduction, 140 characters, 150 words

Week 2 (August 8): More discussion, Long sentence/six sentence stories

Flash fiction

Week 3 (August 15): 500 word stories

Week 4 (August 22): 1000 words (discuss your ideas online, but email the story to me)

After the class: edits, further reading suggestions

The online forum looks like this:

click to see a larger version

click to see a larger version

By enrolling right away, you can get early access to the “Recommended Reading”. Within 24 hours of signing up, you’ll get an email with more information, and an invite to the forum.

Plus, I’m going to limit the class size, and if you wait to sign up you might miss out.

Sign up now! $50 per person

What qualifies me to teach this class?

I am currently putting together my fourth anthology of short fiction (as an editor). I am a short fiction writer, myself, and have sold every size of short fiction, from 140 character stories, through microfiction, flash, and short stories above 1000 words. You can find my flash pieces at Daily Science Fiction and Goldfish Grimm, as well as upcoming stories in Mad Scientist Journal and at Akashic Books. I also have 20 years of experience as an editor, as well as three years teaching writing to individual students. In addition, this process of working through microfiction up to flash and then beyond is exactly the path I took when I got serious about my fiction writing a few years ago. I talk about that in the introduction to my short fiction collection, Women and Other Constructs, out now.

* Everyone is welcome, but the class will be taught in English.


The Vague Shape of My Week


Dagan Books work, editing a client’s novel, writing on “Editors of Gor”* and another story for submitting to a market. More wrangling with Amazon to get the right version of my print books.**

Blog post scheduled for this afternoon, quick reviews of the last few months of Nature‘s Futures section (flash science fiction).


Dagan Books work, submitting a short to a market. The introduction to Bibliotheca Fantastica (written by Don Pizarro) will be posted to the Dagan website.


Bibliotheca Fantastica goes live in the evening, and will be available for sale on the Dagan website.

Plus I have: job interview, editing a client’s novel, writing on “Editors of Gor”, cooking and final packing for Readercon. 


Readercon. (YAY!) SF Signal review of my collection goes up Friday. I’m not 100% sure if I’m going to tweet/post from Readercon.

What can you do this week?

  • Buy a copy of my collection, Women and Other Constructs, from me, or Amazon (print or Kindle).
  • Add WaOC to your Goodreads shelf.
  • Contact me for a review copy or interview request.
  • Hire me as an editor or book packager (click here to talk to me about your project, or here to read my editing resume).
  • Pick up your copy of Bibliotheca Fantastica when it’s available. You can also follow the editors, Claude and Don, on Twitter.
  • See me at Readercon! Let me know here or in the usual places if you’re going to be there.

I’m going to be off the Internet for big chunks of time, because ALL THE THINGS have to get done; the above blog posts (including this one) are set to auto-post, so my “being online” at that time isn’t necessarily true.

* You do know that “Editors of Gor” is a parody, similar in style to “Houseplants of Gor”? It’s meant to be funny, and poke at the editor/slush reader relationship, and maybe make fun of writers. Just a little. I said that several times, on FB and Twitter and here too, but saw at least one person who actually thought my readers wanted me to write a misogynistic, D/s, Gorean kind of tale. (Don’t be silly.) In case reading comprehension isn’t your strong suit–and hey, we all have different skills–I hope this clears that up for you.

** Updated: they fixed it. I’ll have copies of my collection at Readercon.