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A MONTHLY MAGAZINE TO INTEREST AND HELP ALL LITERARY WORKERS.
BOSTON, FEBRUARY, 1894.
ENTERED AT THE BOSTON POST-OFFICE AS SECOND-CLASS MAIL MATTER.
I read the other day, in THE WRITER, of a man who had coolly papered the walls of his study-room with a varied assortment of his editorial "declined-with-thanks" slips. The idea is certainly original, and in these days a most economical one, for the average writer, at least. Until the long-delayed coming of the author's millennium there will probably be a goodly supply of such wall-paper.
But why so many rejections? It's the old, old question, and it is hard to answer in general; but in particular cases it is possible to find a reply.
"Now, why was not my story of 'On the Boulevard' accepted by the I should like
to know?" ponders Miss A. at one end of the line.
At the other end the editor had said regretfully to himself,- as no one else happened to be present, - Why did this writer send a story of genuinely 'swell' life to us, when she must know that our aim is to make a study of and try to help the poorer class of people? Otherwise, the story is cleverly written, and it is very interesting."
Ah! there was the rub! As "Manette," the maid, would say, the manuscript was not "appropriate."
It is love that "makes the world go round," we know; but if Miss A. had sent her next effort - - a charming love story—to its proper destination, instead of to the religious weekly which she did try, she would not have had the tale "returned with thanks."
"There is nothing new under the sun," may be the criticism of some reader at this point. "We have heard all this many times before." Very true; but truth will bear repetition. And simple as this statement is, it is the fact, nevertheless, that many hundreds of manuscripts find their way, more or less promptly, back to their owners, for the reason of their unsuitability for the periodicals to which they are sent.
"This story was surely comical enough. How the Wilsons laughed when I read it to them!" He had chosen the goal carefully. It was a popular "comic" paper which had returned the manuscript "with regret." But the manuscript in question contained 900 words. That seemed to Mr. B. exceedingly, short. Had he studied the "comic" a little more thoroughly, however, he would have discovered the fact that no issue had ever contained an article or a story of more than 300 words.
Copyright, 1894, by WILLIAM H. HILLS. All rights reserved.
"Too long, by half," sighed the man at the other end of the line. "No time at this office to boil it down, and he probably won't be willing to cut it up. Let it go, Andrews." And home.
I read that paper for years. I know just the length and the class of stories it prefers. And why Struggle and Strife' comes flying back I fail to understand."
And at the other end of the line the editor had parted with that manuscript with genuine regret. "Just the thing in some respects," he said. "But the way she pitches into the - s! She has very strong religious prejudices, evidently. She seems to think her hero's faith the only one. We'd have all our - brethren buzzing around our ears if we printed that. She's too sweeping in her statements. But it's a strong story "; and regretfully he sends it homeward.
If I had time enough to rewrite this first page entirely, this story would be just what we'd like; but I can't do it." So the Monthly News returned the manuscript without a word of explanation, from necessity rather than from choice. And its owner wonders yet where the trouble lay.
Editors of temperance papers will tell you
that manuscripts have been sent to them which were almost faultless. But why did that Miss D. let her hero smoke? The Temperance Times sends the story home; and Miss D. promptly tries again, elsewhere, and her manuscript is accepted. "They evidently don't know a good story when they see it," she thinks to herself, concerning the Times. And she forgets her hero's cigar entirely.
I had quite a list of other reasons, wise and otherwise. But I intend to practice what I preach as regards long articles for periodicals which desire short manuscripts. So, "verbum sap." There must be some reason for a rejection. (I wish to be as coolly, calmly, carefully, conscientiously just to The Editor as I possibly can be. You see!)
If it is not for one of the reasons already given, or for one that you yourself can easily find out, the rejection must be laid to the fact that the supply is greater than the demand, at present, at least. An editor cannot accept more manuscripts than he can use. And if he has a year or two's work provided for already, he may hesitate to keep all that comes to him. So let us forgive him!
NEW YORK, N. Y.
In the vernacular of reporters, information received clandestinely is generally a "tip," fire is the "devouring element," and electricity is the "subtle fluid." Each new book is "epochmaking," and politicians are always "in touch" with somebody or something, and a lecturer invariably "looks down upon a sea of up-turned faces," while everything of a surprising nature comes "like a thunderbolt from a clear sky." At a hanging, the murderer, rather than the sentence, is "executed," and the spectators wait with " bated breath" until the body falls
with a "dull thud." "Ladies," who are, of course, "beautiful and accomplished," and who always have "a host of admiring friends," are attired in "stunning " garments, or sometimes are "magnificently gowned "; and it would be only in keeping with the eternal fitness of things for the aforesaid reporters to be boldly “collared," soundly "cuffed," and vigorously "booted." In the village daily a drunken man is always a "drunk," though fat people have not yet become "fats," or sick men "sicks." We read frequently that John Smith Sundayed" in
town with his parents, but we are always left in doubt as to where John "Mondayed," "Tuesdayed," "last weeked," or "Fourth-ofJulyed."
In newspaper diction things seldom happen; they "transpire." People are never married; they are "joined in the holy bonds of matri
mony." There is no such thing as suicide, but people commit "the rash act for which no cause has been assigned "; and death is not death, but merely the "demise" of the "deWill Scott.
CERTAIN INALIENABLE RIGHTS OF AUTHORS.
In my dream I saw a mighty concourse of people, of all ages and conditions, pencils and stationery in their hands, and on their faces an expression of heroic determination. As I approached and asked them who they were and whither they were bound, one replied: "We are delegates to the Continental Congress of Authors, called to protest against the violation of our inalienable rights, and to draw up our Declaration of Independence." Then quoth I, "What are the inalienable rights of authors?" and he showed me a parchment whereon a list of them was written. They were too many to be mentioned here; but among them were these:
"We demand that, when our manuscripts are returned, only the first and last pages shall be crumpled beyond recognition.
"We demand that editors' memoranda on the margin of our manuscripts shall not be made in indelible ink.
"We demand that, when manuscripts are returned after a period of more than fifteen and a half years, the editor shall write on the envelope the words, Postmaster, please forward.'
"We demand that, when manuscripts are published without being acknowledged or paid for, the editors shall return us the stamps which were enclosed in case of rejection.
"We demand that, when editors desire to add material to our contributions, they shall give themselves credit for the addition over their own names.
"We demand that, when editors desire to cut out portions of our articles before publication, they shall insert the word 'Mutilated' immediately under the title."
There were other rights enumerated which
were perhaps even more inalienable than these, but the last two of those quoted arrested my attention, and I should like to say a word in their behalf. Is it a reasonable demand that, when an author risks his reputation by the publication of a manuscript over his own name, it shall appear without either additions or subtractions save those which may be necessary to correct errors? For my own part, it is the right which I should maintain before that of payment; for if I am not paid, my purse alone will suffer, and not my appearance before the reading public. I believe this view can be defended by two or three incidents within my own experience.
Most trying of all was an experience with an article in a children's magazine. I was prepared to recognize its deficiencies, but was conşiderably shocked by seeing that a half-column of it was entirely strange to me. The addition bore some slight connection with the rest of the article, but was in a style so entirely different from mine that the contrast would have been laughable if I had not been too vexed to laugh. I was furious, and wrote to the managing editor that if any one in his office desired to make his fortune by the work of his pen, he would proceed much better by writing over his own name than by inserting his efforts in the middle of my articles. The reply was mild and courteous, and reminded me how little I knew of the trials of a managing editor. There was a certain picture, it appeared, which fitted on the page with my article so neatly and satisfactorily that the
editorial authorities could not bear to dispense with it. As it was but remotely connected with my manuscript, the defect was remedied by the insertion of the extra half-column as a connecting link. I understood this perfectly, of course, but could not avoid the reflection that to have one's articles illustrated in such a roundabout way has its disadvantages. I am willing to write for a picture, or to have a picture made for my manuscript; but further than this I would not
Turning to the matter of mutilations in manuscripts, which is, of course, more common and at the same time more excusable, I have not yet recovered from the effects of a story which a well-known magazine published — in part. It happened that the forms were crowded at the last moment, and some one was evidently sent to dismember my poor little story, cutting out slices here and there with an indifference to sense so complete as to be positively dazzling. One paragraph had described a bit of landscape with a church in it, toward which the hero was supposed to be walking; this was cut out, and the next sentence began, "When he reached the church," etc, although there had appeared in print not the slightest intimation of the existence of a church in the vicinity. Other passages were equally satisfactory. In this case the editor, let it be granted, had the grace to apologize for the abuse; but I wanted to tell
him that, though I was glad enough to have the money he sent me, I would cheerfully have returned it with a trifle to boot, if my name could only have been removed from the choppedup story which I have no wish to own.
Time would fail me to tell in detail of an editor who published a poem based on an old legend, but omitted the verses containing the legend; or of another who confined his corrections to punctuation, and inserted commas at pretty regular intervals, apparently with a regard for typographical symmetry rather than for the sense of the article he published. Doubtless all who have written for publication could bring their little "tales of woe and lay them beside mine. Have our inalienable rights not been interfered with, even granting all sorts of privileges and immunities to our good friends the editors?
But there is another side; and I believe that the fault is partly that of the authors. May not the ruthless hand of the mutilator be encouraged by the fact that so many of us fill our work with sentences and paragraphs which can be omitted without loss to the reader or to any one else? With this in mind, I have worded one of my New Year resolutions thus: "I will so write my manuscripts that no editor can scratch anything out of them without realizing that he has done actual damage to the article in his hands." R. MacDonald Alden.
ESSENTIALS OF A GOOD MANUSCRIPT READER,
The high standard and literary excellence of any periodical depends largely upon the qualities. possessed by its manuscript Readers those arbiters of literary fate whom we mentally, and sometimes verbally, accuse of taking fiendish pleasure in ruthlessly mangling our choicest manuscripts, or in returning them to us unread.
The long-suffering editor has a great deal of blame laid at his door that by rights belongs to the Readers in his employ.
That there are Readers and Readers goes without saying.
There are those who seem to think that it adds dignity to their position to hold a manuscript for several months, only to return it to the writer at last with some curt and uncalledfor criticism. A case in point comes to mind where an illustrated poem was returned to its author with the statement that the poem itself was nothing but doggerel, and the illustration
fit only for the columns of an advertising page. Criticism is a splendid cudgel for the aspiring author who really has talent, but people who cannot write need to be dealt with more tenderly than those who can, and it costs little to be kind and courteous.
Then there are Readers who allow personal friendship or animosity to govern their judg ment. If the chief is a trifle careless, the friend's manuscript is apt to go in, with all its glaring defects, while the stranger writhes under the touch of a prejudiced blue pencil, and sees his finest points blunted and twisted into every conceivable shape by the manuscript' Reader or the proof-reader. A noted writer says: "There is no defence against the proof
reader in his wild thirst for original spelling and novel effects."
A good manuscript Reader never permits his judgment to be influenced except by the intrinsic merit of the manuscript in hand. He must have a broad knowledge of many subjects, and especially those which pertain to different phases of human life; he must be able to discern the fine touches in all manuscripts that he handles. He should be always able to recog nize excellence in style, polish, and good literary form at a glance, and he should base his decisions always from a wholly disinterested standpoint. Such are the essentials of the Reader par excellence.
A HUNDRED AND FIFTY RECENT ENGLISH WORDS.
A few years ago I had the honor to contribute to THE WRITER a list of words which I had gathered in the course of my daily readings, and which, not being found in what was then the latest edition of Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, I advised the readers of THE WRITER to look up in the new International, then just issued. Having meanwhile kept up the custom of noting such new words and new meanings as happen to draw my attention, I now present another collection of words that are new in so far as the International does not contain them. How many of them are included in the Century Dictionary, or in the Standard Dictionary now being published by Funk & Wag nalls, or in any other modern English lexicon besides the International, I must leave the reader to determine for himself.
The whole number of words I have gathered is two hundred and forty. Wishing, however, to present only a definite number of good words, I begin a process of pruning by striking out barbarisms and slang terms, which, though some of them are used by otherwise good writers, do
not appear sufficiently respectable to stand in a general vocabulary of the language. The number of these castaways is seventeen, and they are: Bigbug, borous, bullish, burglarize, cornjuice, daisy, don't-care-ative-ness, go-ahead-iveness, happify, healthery, left hander, poker (delirium tremens), right-hander, specs, stickto-it-ive-ness, suicide (verb), teacheral.
I next exclude a longer list of special names applied to patent medicines and proprietary articles of food, drink, and household use. These words, partaking of the nature of proper nouns, and being but samples of scores of similar terms that arise daily and often as quickly disappear, can scarcely be seriously considered by the lexicographer in making up his final list. I have collected thirty of them, as follows: Algosine, anacardine, anakesis, auburnine, bona dea, bovinine, brilliantine, brockaline, castoria, coleo, cottolene, cuticura, diastine, floraplexion, gelbite, germateur, gramila, granula, lycodine, maltase, massanetta, milk-shake, modene, nervaline, nervura, angoline, pearline, pedine, phenyocaffeine, rosaline, sapolio, soapine, sudsena,