When growing up, my mom and dad always taught me to think about my actions before acting. They taught me every move has a consequence. They taught me the value of a reputation. If you break the law, you’ll be remembered as a criminal. If you habitually drink, you’ll be labeled an alcoholic. If you smoke dope and pop pills, you’ll be a druggie. If on the other hand you do good deeds, help people, are involved in the community, you’ll be thought of as a humanitarian, a philanthropist, a caring person. If you drop everything you’re doing to be with someone in physical or emotional pain, you’re considered the truest of friends.
The same advice used to get through life should also be applied to writing. If you can help it, try not to put your name on something you aren’t 100% proud of.
I did that once. One of my favorite short stories appeared in an anthology I am not 100% proud of. See, I took on a job as ‘editor’ for an aspiring authors writer’s group I was in. The founder and publisher decided to put together an anthology of the member’s works. There was no set theme, no cohesion, and, it was a ‘pay for inclusion’ publication for members only. I cringed inside when I realized too late into the project I had very little ‘editing’ control over the submitted pieces. By then, I’d made a commitment to see the project through. My reputation was on the line. The result featured snippets of novels, short stories, some complete short stories, and some errors that would make most editors and polished authors quiver. While it was a morale booster to those who submitted, the finished work was not what I had envisioned. My name was on something I wasn’t 100% proud of. I didn’t get to perform my job the best I should have, the best I would have, if given control of the reins.
Was the experience a bad one? No, nor do I regret it. I learned a lot. I met some really wonderful people. I gained experience of working with over 20 authors for one project, which was way cool. I worked on cover design, formatting text, placement of stories. It wasn’t a complete wash, but I wish I hadn’t included one of my favorite short stories. Because it was published in this anthology, no magazine or publisher will touch it, even though I gave up no rights. I’m looking at publishing it as a stand-alone e-book short story, that’s how much I love this southern paranormal tale.
We hear all the time of actors and actresses who say they regret making some of their first films. Susan Sarandon has stated several times she would like to forget her role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Ironically, that is one of her most remembered and beloved roles. I’m not going to go so far to say I wish I hadn’t participated in the anthology but I did learn valuable lessons like the importance of determining where your work appears. Remember, in the publishing world…there are no do-overs, so make sure you do your best to get it right the first time.