Dear Agony Aunt,
I'm really excited to have had a story accepted by a literary journal, but the editor has just sent the story back to me with quite a few changes and I'm not happy with all of them. I didn't think that my story needed this much work! How do I tell them to put away the red pen without pissing them off?
Red Pen Wary
Hello Red Pen Wary,
It's good to hear that you're accepting of some of the changes, because it's a cold day in hell that an editor will alter absolutely nothing (rest assured that some strange sentence structure or a misplaced en-dash is lingering somewhere in there!). The editor wants to make your writing better and so you are on the same page – so to speak – when it comes to making your story the best story that it can be. Repeat: the editor is not your enemy.
However, it's no good if you aren't comfortable with the direction that things are going and so: communicate! There's absolutely no need to be aggressive about it but it's fine and good practice to ask the editor why they've made a particular change and to explain why it isn't sitting well with you. Explain why a certain phrase or scene is important to the story and be open to the editor's perspective on why it may not be working. Most of the time through this dialogue you should be able to come to some agreement.
The relationship is ultimately one of trust. If you feel as though you can't trust the editor's judgement, and they insist on making changes of which you don't approve, you could consider pulling the story. This sort of event should be rare though – for the most part, through an honest exchange, you should be able to reach an agreement that suits you both. Remember, the story comes from your head and there's so much that you will understand that a reader can't know unless you portray it in a way that is accessible. If you want to write an inaccessible story, that's fine of course, but it might mean that your work won't be published anywhere except on your own blog.
Want some more bitter pills to swallow? Check out these other Agony Aunt posts
Shelf Snubbed (about having trouble getting into bookstores)
Garage Graveyard (ie what to do with boxes of your own books)
Pantry Procrastinations (or some tips to break your writers' block)
Journal Jeopardy (where should you submit to)
I'm Listening (where writers can go to find feedback on their work)