Editing for The Offbeat

In Spring 2019 I worked as an editor at The Offbeat, a quirky literary magazine run out of an MSU WRA course and publishing authors from all over the world. I was assigned two authors to work with, and I’ve reproduced my notes to one of these authors below. Because the copyright of the actual story belongs to the author, I can’t show it here and have removed any reference to titles or real names. But before I began editing, I first sent an introductory email:

Dear [Author],

We’re so excited to publish your piece, “[Title],” in Vol. 19 | Spring 2019 of the Offbeat! I’m Bridget, and I’ll be working as your editor during the production process.

Please send us a final version of your manuscript if you’ve made any changes to it since acceptance.

We also request that you send us a brief author bio (~75-100 words). Our theme this semester is household appliances, so we’re asking our authors to send, along with their bio, a line responding to the question: Which household appliance speaks to your soul?

I’ve also attached an author contract which I’ll need you to fill out, sign, and email back to us.

Please send an updated manuscript (if any), your bio and answer, and the author contract by Tuesday, January 15.

If you have any questions, please send me an email at this address. I look forward to working with you!

Best,

Bridget

Offbeat Staff

In class, we each edited our own pieces, then traded with another student and checked each other’s work. I made these comments on the piece (I’m “author” on MS Word) and sent the following message:

[Author],

I’ve completed the edits on your piece, “[Title],” and am sending them along for your approval. Most of the edits are very minor, but there are a few things I’d like to discuss with you.

First, after consulting with the other editors, I’m wondering if you could come up with another title for your piece. We feel that “[Title]” doesn’t do justice to the creepy and inventive story you’ve written, and we’d like to see it with a title that matches that tone. I’m happy to make suggestions if you’d like, but first I wanted to hear if you had any ideas.

Additionally, I think the piece could be strengthened by removing a few lines towards the beginning and end (the lines that contain callbacks to the phrase “[title].”) For the first one, the fact that it’s a journal seems clear to me from the dates above each entry (and could maybe be explained in the title, as well). At the end, I felt that the preceding lines were already so powerful that any more were unnecessary.

Finally, there were a few logic questions I had about certain areas. First, when the narrator’s son is born, he describes tearing out his heart and holding it in his hand, and his wife dying. Then he says that the son lived an hour longer than the wife. This implies that the baby lived for an hour with no heart. Is that what you meant? Second, as the narrator prepares to kill himself, he prepares both a gun and a (full?) bath. This implies that he’s going to shoot himself, then get in the tub and drown himself. I’ve heard of people slitting their wrists and then bleeding out in the tub, but I think a bullet would do the job well enough on its own. If you decide to keep this sequence of events, I think a little more detail would be helpful, but if you decide to change it, I think that “The gun is ready. So am I.” gets the point across very well.

We’d like to finalize the manuscript by the first week of March. Please “accept” the simple changes on Word if they look okay; and for the more complicated things, please make whatever edits you need to, then send the file back to me. If you’d like to talk about the title or the logic issues, please reply to this email as soon as possible. Let me know if you have any other questions!

Thank you!

Bridget

After going through a few rounds of edits and coming to a mutually agreed-upon final manuscript, we entered production. We put each story into the house layout template, then sent proofs to the authors to approve. At the same time, I was designing stickers for the journal’s conference appearances and inventing different possible templates using public domain stories.The Offbeat has given me the chance to practice corresponding with writers digitally: using Submittable, sharing files, and communicating suggestions respectfully. It was thrilling to see my work go into a physical product that people are actually going to buy and read, and wonderful to be part of the storytelling process for two different authors.

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